Bangladesh collapse toll exceeds 500, engineer arrested

Police today arrested an engineer for negligence in duty in connection with the worst building collapse in Bangladesh that left at least 509 people dead.

Abdur Razzak Khan worked as consultant when the owner of the eight-story Rana Plaza in suburban Savar illegally added three floors atop the ill-fated building, a police official told newsmen.

63 more bodies were today retrieved from the debris 10th day into the collapse while the number of people rescued alive remained unchanged at 2,437.

"Sixty three more bodies were retrieved from under the rubble (and) the number of rescued people remained unchanged at 2,437 as you cannot expect anyone to survive under the debris at this point," an army spokesman told PTI.

But, he said, the army-led salvage campaign would be carried out since the last of the body would be retrieved with the use of heavy equipment like hydraulic cranes and sophisticated electronic devices to remove the rubble and locate the bodies as part of the second phase of the rescue operations.

Police said they arrested Khan who earlier warned the commercial buildings exposure to risks for negligence in duty.

"He (Khan) warned that the building was unsafe ahead of its collapse but he worked as the construction consult when the Rana Plaza's owner illegally added three floors atop his five-story building," the police official said.

Khan was the third engineer to be put behind the bar after two other engineers of the Savar Municipally were arrested as they issued safety clearance despite cracks were reported in the structure eventually causing Bangladesh's deadliest ever industrial disaster.

Officials earlier said the building was initially erected as a commercial structure to house offices and shops but later it was turned into a industrial unit where five garments factories were set up also installing heavy generators.

An official investigation report said the building was exposed to risks because of the faulty construction methods and use of low category materials while the tragedy was accelerated due to vibrations of the heavy generators while cracks were already developed.

Owner of the building Sohel Rana was arrested from western Jessore frontiers as he tried to flee to to India while police also arrested the owners and senior management officials of the factories for forcing workers to join the production line.

Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) director Shaheenul Islam said rescuers still awaited a list of workers present on the day from Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) which visibly came under fire for neglecting the safety of their workers who produce clothing for the brand western retailers.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, meanwhile, said the Western retailers must also share some of the blame for the tragedy while she defended the industry's safety record.

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Hasina insisted that "Bangladesh now is a place for good conditions for the investment" but she also suggested that Western firms drawn to the country by the cheap labour costs could hike salaries.

"If they want to do business, these buyers, they also should also consider increase the prices of the garments so that the business can run properly and labour can get a good salary so they are also partly responsible for it," she said.

She said the recent deadly explosion at a fertiliser plant in the US showed that no country was immune as "anywhere in the world, any accident can take place".

But the industry which fetches the lion of impoverished Bangladesh's export earning and accounts for more than 40 per cent of the industrial workforce was visibly exposed to uncertainty as some Western fashion brands said they were considering their futures in Bangladesh.

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