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Arrests Made in Fatal Building Collapse

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

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Building and factory owners have been arrested and rescue efforts have ceased five days after an eight-story, illegally constructed building in Bangladesh crashed down, killing, injuring and trapping hundreds.

The owner of the doomed Rana Plaza, in Dhaka, was arrested Sunday (April 28) as he was attempting to flee the country while hundreds of people remained missing at the site of the disaster, according to news reports Monday morning (April 29).

Sohel Rana
NBC / Today.com

Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the Rana Plaza was arrested Sunday while attempting to flee to neighboring India. He is accused of telling tenants it was safe to inhabit the building after police had issued an evacuation order.

At least 380 people were killed when the building that housed five garment factories collapsed Wednesday (April 24) morning. The death toll is expected to rise as up to 800 people were reported missing. Large cracks had been discovered in the building the day before, and police had ordered the building evacuated.

Three floors of the building were said to have been constructed illegally six years ago. In addition, an illegal ninth story was under construction, some report said.

Disaster Management Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali said Sunday that the structure did not meet building code requirements, was never approved by the government, and was built on a wetland using substandard construction materials, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A garment manufacturers’ group said the factories employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside when it pancaked. About 2,500 survivors had been accounted for as of Monday morning, according to authorities. As many as 29 survivors were pulled out Saturday, army spokesman Shahinul Islam told media outlets.

The deadly collapse is described as the worst ever for Bangladesh’s notoriously dangerous garment industry.

Arrest at the Border

Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza and a local politician, was detained Sunday in the western border town of Benapole. He was attempting to flee to neighboring India, according to reports citing Jahangir Kabir Nanak, junior minister for local government.

Rana faces charges of negligence. Local reports indicate that attempted-murder charges are also possible.

He was said to have told tenants—including the five garment factories—that the building was safe for occupancy on Tuesday, despite an evacuation order issued that day by police. Rana had been on the run since the building collapsed Wednesday, reports said. Some media outlets report that Rana was on the ground floor inside the complex when it started to crumble.

building collapse
Sharat Chowdhury / Wikimedia Commons

Rescuers used hands and shovels to comb through rubble looking for survivors before resorting to heavy machinery.

After his arrest, Rana claimed that the owners of the garment factories had pressured him into operating the morning of the collapse.

“I did not force the owners,” he said, according to bdnews24.com, an online news outlet in Bangladesh. “It was them who forced me, saying they would face huge losses and shipments would be canceled if the factories were closed for even one day.”

Rana’s arrest, which was ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was also announced via loudspeaker at the disaster site and was met with hearty cheers, reports said.

His wife and father have also been detained, reports said.

Factory Owners, Engineers Detained

Managers of the garment factories on upper floors of the building reportedly ordered employees to come to work Wednesday; a bank and shop owners on the first floor closed, heeding orders from police, reports said.

On Saturday, police arrested factory owners Bazlus Samad, managing director of New Wave Apparels Ltd.; Mahmudur Rahman Tapash, the company chairman; and Aminul Islam, the owner of Phantom Apparels and Phantom Tac Ltd., according Junior Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku.

At least one other owner—Anisur Rahman, the chairman Ethertex Ltd.—has also been arrested.

A Dhaka court ruled that the owners can be questioned by police for 12 days without charges being filed, according to news outlets. The police have 15 days to question Rana, however.

Moreover, the Bangladesh High Court has frozen the bank accounts of the owners of all five garment factories in the Rana Plaza, local TV stations reported.

Police have also detained two government engineers, Imtemam Hossain and Alam Ali, involved in the building design approvals, reports said.

Rescue Turns to Recovery

By Monday morning, rescue efforts ceased and recovery operations ensued at the site, according to reports. Shovels and bare hands were replaced by hydraulic cranes and heavy cutting machinery in an effort to dislodge rubble and search for bodies, reports indicate.

"There is little hope of finding anyone alive. Our men went inside and saw some dead bodies in the ground floor. But no one was seen alive," Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed Khan, the chief of the fire brigade, told reporters at the scene.

Before resorting to heavy machinery, rescuers were said to have worked for 12 hours Sunday trying to save a trapped woman.

Bangladesh collapse
bdnews24.com

A local school near the disaster has been transformed into a makeshift morgue, for the identification of bodies, reports said.

However, a fire was alleged to have broken out during the effort, killing the woman and injuring some firefighters.

Ambulances and civilian volunteers have dispersed, as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the site and hospital Monday to meet with survivors, many of whom have suffered horrifying injuries.

A local school near the disaster has been transformed into a makeshift morgue, for the identification of bodies, reports said.

Finding and identifying all the missing may take weeks, Bangladesh news outlets said.

 

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Building codes; Building owners; Concrete; Construction; Cracks; Engineers; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Structural steel

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