SAVAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Police in Bangladesh arrested two owners of a garment factory in a shoddily constructed building that collapsed this week, killing at least 324 people, as protests spread to a second city Saturday with hundreds of people throwing stones and setting fire to vehicles.
The wife of the building owner, who is on the run, was also detained in an attempt to force him to surrender.
Rescue workers continued to bring badly decomposed bodies out of the tangled mess of concrete, bricks and steel amid frenzied efforts to pull out remaining survivors, more than three days after the building came down in the worst tragedy to hit Bangladesh's massive, but poorly regulated, garment industry that supplies clothes to top Western brand names.
Teams were going in from seven entry points gouged into the rubble. Every once in a while a body would be brought out, covered in cloth and plastic, to a spot where ambulances were parked. Workers furiously sprayed air-fresheners on the bodies to cover the stench, leaving the air thick with the smell of death and cheap perfume.
The bodies were kept at the nearby Adharchandra High School grounds before being handed over to families. Many people milled around at the school, waving photos of their missing loved ones.
Military spokesman Shahinul Islam said 324 bodies have been recovered and 2,419 survivors accounted for, including 19 who were pulled out Saturday.
"We will continue our operation for more survivors as long as it is required. We are not thinking of wrapping up of our effort any time soon," he said.
Subrata Sarker, a fire service official, said he saw 12 survivors in one place, of whom three were pulled out.
"There are many (survivors) still there," Sarker told The Associated Press, during a break. Around him, soldiers, police and medical workers in lab coats swirled around in frenzied activity.
Police in riot gear formed a cordon around the site to keep away hundreds of protesters who have been venting their anger at the situation since Wednesday. The protests have spread outside Savar, a Dhaka suburb where the collapse happened.
Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used sticks to disperse several hundred stone-throwing garment workers Saturday in Savar, a police official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Clashes also erupted in other parts of Dhaka and in the southeastern city of Chittagong where hundreds of garment workers took to the streets and vandalized vehicles.
They also put up roadblocks, disrupting traffic.
Authorities shut down garment factories in Dhaka for fear of violence, which has persisted over demands that police arrest the owners of the factories and the building.
Junior Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku said police had arrested Bazlus Samad, managing director of New Wave Apparels Ltd., and Mahmudur Rahman Tapash, the company chairman.
He told reporters that police had also detained the wife of Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, for questioning. The top three floors of the eight-story building were illegally constructed.
Authorities are still searching for Rana, a local politician, who hasn't been seen publicly since the building collapsed. Negligence cases have been filed against him. Police in Bangladesh often detain relatives of missing suspects as a way to pressure them to surrender.
Dhaka police superintendent Habibur Rahman said Rana was a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front. His arrest, and that of the factory owners, was ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Awami League leader.
Fire service inspector Shafiqul Islam, who searched the building, said more than 40 survivors were found late Friday. Through holes in the structure, he gave them water and juice packs to combat dehydration in the stifling heat and humidity.
Search crews were cautiously using hammers, shovels and their bare hands. Many of the trapped workers were so badly hurt and weakened that they needed to be removed within a few hours, rescuers said.
There were fears that even if unhurt, the survivors could be badly dehydrated, with daytime temperatures soaring to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and about 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.
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.
Clashes broke out between the relatives and police, who used batons to disperse them. Police said 50 people were injured in the skirmishes.
"We want to go inside the building and find our people now. They will die if we don't find them soon," said Shahinur Rahman, whose mother was missing.
Police say they ordered an evacuation of the building on Tuesday after cracks in Rana Plaza were found, but the factories ignored the order and were operating when it collapsed the next day. Video before the collapse shows cracks in walls, with apparent attempts at repair. It also shows columns missing chunks of concrete and police talking to building operators.
Officials said soon after the collapse that numerous construction regulations had been violated.
The disaster is the worst ever for the country's booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve worker-safety standards. Since then, very little has changed in Bangladesh, where low wages have made it a magnet for numerous global brands.
Bangladesh's garment industry was the third largest in the world in 2011, after China and Italy, having grown rapidly in the past decade. The country's minimum wage is the equivalent of about $38 a month.
Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, pants and other garments a year.
The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for several major North American and European retailers.
Britain's Primark acknowledged it was using a factory in Rana Plaza, but many other retailers distanced themselves from the disaster, saying they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse or had not recently ordered garments from them.
Wal-Mart said none of its clothing had been authorized to be made in the facility, but it is investigating whether there was any unauthorized production.
AP writers Muneeza Naqvi and Tim Sullivan in New Delhi, Stephen Wright in Bangkok, Kay Johnson in Mumbai, Matthew Pennington in Washington and AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report.
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