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Property tycoon Sohel Rana (centre) is flanked by police in Dhaka.
Property tycoon Sohel Rana (centre) is flanked by police in Dhaka.
Relatives mourn as they show pictures of garment workers, who are believed to be trapped under the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Relatives mourn as they show pictures of garment workers, who are believed to be trapped under the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Bangladesh factory collapse owner arrested as death toll climbs

Bangladesh police today arrested the owner of a garment factory block that collapsed last week killing more than 370 people as he attempted to flee to India, officials said.

SAVAR, Bangladesh // The owner of an illegally-constructed building that collapsed last week in a Dhaka suburb was arrested at a crossing on the border with India yesterday.

In a dramatic operation by members of an elite commando force, Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested near the land-crossing in Benapole, just as he was about to cross into India’s West Bengal state, said Jahangir Kabir Nanak, junior minister for local government.

He would be flown back by helicopter to the capital Dhaka, where he faces charges of negligence, Mr Nanak added.

The arrest, by the Rapid Action Battalion was announced over a loudspeaker at the site of the collapsed building in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, where people greeted it with cheers and claps.

At least 362 people are confirmed to have died in the eight-storey building following its collapse on Wednesday. Three of the floors were built illegally.

A garment manufacturers’ group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside it when it collapsed. About 2,500 survivors have been accounted for.

Rescuers located another nine people alive in the rubble yesterday, as authorities announced that they would begin to use heavy equipment to drill a central hole from the top to look for survivors and the bodies of the dead.

Army Maj Gen Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the coordinator of the rescue operations, said they would first try to get the nine survivors out by manually shifting concrete blocks using light equipment such as pick axes and shovels.

“But if we fail we will start our next phase within hours”, he added, which would involve the use of heavy equipment such as hydraulic cranes and cutters to bore a hole from the top of the building.

The purpose was to “continue the operation to recover both survivors and dead bodies”, he said.

“In this stage, we have no other choice but to use some heavy equipment. We will start it within a few hours. Manual operation and use of small equipment is not enough.”

The work would be carried out carefully so as not to mutilate bodies, he added.

All the equipment was in place, he said, “from a small blade to everything. We have engaged many private-sector companies which supplied us with equipment, even some heavy ones”.

In some othet rare good news at this stage of the recovery operation, a female worker was yesterday pulled from the rubble alive.

Hasan Akbari, one of the rescuers, said that when he tried to extricate a man found alive next to the woman, “he said his body was being torn apart. So I had to let go”.

He added: “But God willing, we will be able to rescue him with more help very soon.”

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