Police have been given 15 days to interrogate the owner of the Bangladeshi building that collapsed killing nearly 400 people. Mohammed Sohel Rana, who was arrested on near the border with India, will be held for questioning on charges of negligence, illegal construction and forcing people to work. His father, Abdul Khaleque, was also arrested on suspicion of aiding Rana to force people to work in a dangerous building.
The illegally constructed, eight storey Rana Plaza collapsed in a heap on Wednesday morning along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. About 2,500 people have been accounted for. Rescue workers have now given up hope of finding any more survivors.
Rana was taken to Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate's Court in a bullet-proof vest, and remanded in custody after the magistrate granted a police request to hold him longer before filing formal charges. The crimes he is accused of carry a maximum punishment of seven years. More charges could be added later.
The collapse was the deadliest disaster to hit the garment industry in Bangladesh. In renewed anger against conditions in garment factories - a mainstay of the economy - hundreds of workers poured into the streets in the Dhaka suburb of Ashulia and tried to set fire to a factory. Authorities shut down all garment factories in Ashulia and Gazipur industrial suburbs, including one that had reportedly developed cracks and was evacuated earlier.
Rana, a small-time political operative from the Awami League party's youth wing, had permission to build a five-storey building but added three more illegally. He last appeared in public Tuesday in front of the Rana Plaza after huge cracks appeared in the building.
Witnesses said he assured tenants that the building was safe. Police, however, ordered an evacuation. A bank and some first-floor shops closed, but managers of the garment factories on the upper floors told workers to continue their shifts. Hours later, the Rana Plaza was reduced to rubble, crushing most victims under massive blocks of concrete.
Police have also arrested four owners of three factories. Also in detention for questioning are two municipal engineers who were involved in approving the building's design.
The death toll surpassed a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve worker-safety standards. But since then, very little has changed in Bangladesh. The collapse and previous disasters in garment factories have focused attention on the poor working conditions of workers who toil for as little as £25 a month to produce clothing for top international brands. Its garment industry was the third-largest in the world in 2011, after China and Italy, having grown rapidly in the past decade.
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.