Hopes fade of pulling anyone from the Bangladesh factory rubble as death toll tops 380

Scores of people – perhaps more – remain unaccounted for

Hopes are fast fading of rescuing anyone else alive from the site of the collapsed factory in Bangladesh which has so far claimed the lives of at least 381 people.

Rescue officials said that despite frantic efforts involving heavy lifting gear to remove concrete and steel, it was now against the odds that any more people would be found. In a grim, bitter twist to the rescue operation late on Sunday night, sparks from rescuers cutting tools ignited a blaze that is believed to have killed the last known trapped survivor, a woman.

“We are giving the highest priority to saving people, but there is little hope of finding anyone alive,” army spokesman Shahinul Islam told reporters, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, police revealed they had arrested the politically connected owner of the building as he tried to flee into India. He had been on the run for the past five days.

Mohammed Sohel Rana, a man who was connected to the ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was seized close to the town of Benapole as he was trying to make his way into the Indian state of West Bengal. He was later paraded in front of television cameras

When news of his arrest was relayed over loudspeakers at the site of the collapsed building, cheers broke out from among the crowd.

In the Savar neighbourhood of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, Mr Rana was said to have been a political enforcer, always ensuring he retained good connections with both the Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as well as the BNP, headed by Khaleda Zia.

Mr Rana is one of seven people that have been arrested in connection with the disaster. Police are still looking for another factory boss, who they said was a Spanish citizen.

On Tuesday, when cracks in the Rana Plaza building were pointed out, Mr Rana had insisted that there was no danger, even though employees from a bank that was housed at the location were evacuated. Garment factory managers told their employees to carry on with their work or else have their wages docked.

The authorities had been looking Mr Rana since he disappeared on Wednesday. His wife had already been detained in the hope it would make him give himself up.

Two engineers who approved plans for the eight-storey building – three of them illegal – along with two garment factory owners have also been arrested amid mounting public anger. On Saturday there were protests in two Bangladeshi cities as well as outside a London store of Primark, one of several Western brands which sourced clothes from the site.

The building employed a total of 3,122 people though it is unknown how many were inside when the collapse happened early last Wednesday morning. At least 2,500 survivors have been accounted for. Scores of people – perhaps more – remain unaccounted for.

The collapse of the building has again focused attention on the perilous, unregulated nature of the garment industry, which is worth an annual £13bn to the economy of Bangladesh, which brings workers as little as £25 a month.

While this disaster has been the deadliest to hit the garment industry, it is far from unique; last November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory killed 112 people. US rapper and producer Sean Combs was among those who sourced clothes from the factory.

Amid an outpouring of frustration and anger, activists have said Western companies must do more to help improve labour conditions inside the garment industry, which employs 3m in Bangladesh and accounts for 80 per cent of its exports.

Activists have said companies should sign up to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which would require signatories to fit out their suppliers’ premises to full safety standards. So far only PVH, the owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger labels, and German retailer Tchibo, have done so.

Meanwhile on Monday, in a development that may raise questions about the handling of the rescue operation, a spokesman at the British High Commission confirmed that an offer of technical assistance from Britain had been declined.

Ongoing unrest has led the Bangladeshi authorities to shut down many factories, which had reopened on Monday after two days of closures. Police fired teargas to disperse protesters. The main opposition has called for a national strike on May 2 in protest.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Arts and Entertainment
film
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee