Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Factory owner's property seized

Protestors gather on the streets to demand for justice to those who were killed when a building collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh (AP)

A Bangladesh court has ordered the government to confiscate the property of the owner of the collapsed garment factory building in which nearly 400 people died.

A two-judge panel of the High Court also asked the central bank to freeze the assets of the owners of the five clothing factories in the building, and use the money to pay the salaries and other benefits of their workers.

The order came after police produced the building owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, and the factory owners in court. The order did not elaborate but it was implied that the salaries of the dead victims would be paid to their relatives.

At least 386 people were killed when the illegally constructed eight-storey Rana Plaza in Savar collapsed on April 24. A total of 3,122 people were employed in the garment factories. It is not clear how many were working at the time, but 2,500 people were pulled out of the rubble alive.

The collapse has become the deadliest disaster to hit Bangladesh's garment industry, which is worth £14 billion annually and supplies global retailers. Rescue efforts have now been suspended and heavy machinery is being used to clear the broken and crushed concrete slabs to get to the bottom floor, where workers expect to find many more dead bodies.

Meanwhile clashes broke out again between thousands of garment workers and police in Savar, leaving at least 100 people injured. Police attacked with sticks when the workers, who were demanding death penalty for Rana and news of the missing people, tried to break the security cordon around the collapsed building.

Earlier people had waited patiently at the site for news of missing relatives, holding their pictures and identity cards as they watched cranes lifting sections of ceilings and floors from the rubble. Emergency workers in hard hats used drilling and cutting machines to break up the slabs into manageable pieces.

Ratna Akhtar , looking for her husband at a nearby school, wailed: "Give me my husband back. At least I want to see his dead body if not alive."

Most of the bodies have been handed to families except 49 that have been kept at the morgue of state-run Dhaka Medical College Hospital for identification. Mahmud Ali of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said many more bodies are believed trapped under the rubble of the building, judging by stench of decomposing flesh still emanating.

Rana, the building owner was arrested on Sunday in a border town as he tried to flee to India. He is being questioned on charges of negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to join work. The crimes he is accused of carry a maximum punishment of seven years. More charges could be added later. Rana had permission to build a five-storey building but added three more floors illegally.

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