* Owner of collapsed building on run, border authorities
* Angry workers protest in Dhaka, burning and smashing cars
* Twenty pulled from rubble alive, 72 hours after disaster
* Rescuers work frantically to save 15 trapped workers
By Serajul Quadir and Ruma Paul
DHAKA, April 27 Two factory bosses and two
engineers were arrested in Bangladesh on Saturday, 72 hours
after the collapse of a building where low-cost garments were
made for Western brands, as the death toll rose to 340 but many
were still being found alive.
The owner of the eight-storey building that fell like a pack
of cards around more than 3,000 workers was still on the run. As
many as 900 people could still be missing, police said.
Police said two of his relatives had been detained to compel
him to hand himself in, and an alert had gone out to airport and
border authorities to prevent him from fleeing the country.
Officials said Rana Plaza, on the outskirts of the capital,
Dhaka, had been built illegally without the correct permits, and
the workers were allowed in on Wednesday despite warnings the
previous day that it was structurally unsafe.
Two engineers involved in building the Rana Plaza were also
arrested at their homes early on Saturday, Dhaka district police
chief Habibur Rahman said. He said they were arrested for
dismissing a warning not to open the building after cracks were
noticed on Tuesday.
The owner and managing director of the largest of the five
factories in the complex, New Wave Style, surrendered to the
country's garment industry association during the night and they
were handed over to police.
The factory, which listed many European and North American
retailers as its customers, occupied upper floors of the
building that officials said had been added illegally.
"Everyone involved - including the designer, engineer, and
builders - will be arrested for putting up this defective
building," said junior internal affairs minister Shamsul Huq.
On Saturday, Canada's Loblaw, a unit of George Weston Ltd
and which had a small number of "Joe Fresh" apparel
items made at one of the factories, said it was working with
other retailers to provide aid and support.
It said it was sending representatives to Bangladesh and was
also joining what it described as an urgent meeting with other
retailers and the Retail Council of Canada.
Wednesday's collapse was the third major industrial incident
in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of
garments in the world. In November, a fire at the Tazreen
Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka killed 112 people.
Such incidents have raised serious questions about worker
safety and low wages, and could taint the reputation of the poor
South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of
Anger over the working conditions of Bangladesh's 3.6
million garment workers - most of whom are women - has grown
since the disaster, triggering protests. Hundreds were on the
streets again on Saturday morning, smashing and burning cars and
sparking more clashes with police who responded with tear gas.
Remarkably, people were still being pulled alive from the
precarious mound of rubble - 20 in all since dawn on Saturday.
"We must salute the common people who dared to enter the
wreckage to rescue them, as even our professionals didn't dare
to take the risk," Mizanur Rahman, deputy director of the fire
service, told Reuters.
Marina Begum, 22, told of her ordeal inside the broken
building for three days.
"It felt like I was in hell," she told reporters from her
hospital bed. "It was so hot, I could hardly breathe, there was
no food and water. When I regained my senses I found myself in
this hospital bed."
Frantic efforts were under way to extract 15 people trapped
under the broken concrete who were being supplied with dried
food, bottled water and oxygen.
About 2,500 people have been rescued, at least half of them
injured, from the remains of the building in the commercial
suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from Dhaka.
WRONG PERMIT, ILLEGAL FLOORS
Emdadul Islam, chief engineer of the state-run Capital
Development Authority (CDA), said the owner of the building had
not received the proper building consent, obtaining a permit for
a five-storey building from the local municipality, which did
not have the authority to grant it.
"Only CDA can give such approval," he said. "We are trying
to get the original design from the municipality, but since the
concerned official is in hiding we cannot get it readily."
Furthermore, another three storeys had been added illegally,
he said. "Savar is not an industrial zone, and for that reason
no factory can be housed in Rana Plaza," Islam told Reuters.
Islam said the building had been erected on the site of a
pond filled in with sand and earth, which meant its foundations
were too weak.
"There were three big and very heavy generators that shook
the whole building when they were operating. On that day the
generators were being used and within seconds the building
collapsed," Islam said.
Dhaka police chief Rahman identified the owner of the Rana
Plaza building as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a leader of the ruling
Awami League's youth front.
"People are asking for his head, which is quite natural,"
said H.T. Imam, an adviser to the prime minister.
Sixty percent of Bangladesh's garment exports go to Europe.
The United States takes 23 percent and Canada takes 5 percent.
North American and European chains, including British
retailer Primark and Canada's Loblaw, said they were supplied by
factories in the Rana Plaza building.