Dhaka factory collapse: Owner Rana faces anger at court

Wearing a protective police jacket, Mohammed Sohel Rana was mobbed by angry crowds as he was led into court

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The owner of a building that collapsed in Bangladesh killing hundreds faced an angry crowd when he appeared in court.

Mohammed Sohel Rana, wearing a police helmet and bullet-proof jacket for the hearing, was remanded in custody for 15 days to face questioning by police.

Officials say there is little hope any more survivors will be found in the rubble of the devastated building.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has defended its decision not to accept foreign help with the disaster.

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told the BBC his government was confident it could handle the situation and said the local authorities had done a good job.

Both the UK government and the United Nations have said they had teams of experts ready to head out to Bangladesh, but their offer of help was turned down.

Analysis

It's unusual for countries to decline help when disaster strikes - whether they are rich or poor.

Hundreds of rescuers converged on Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, for example. They performed similar work to that needed in Bangladesh.

Japan, a far richer country, also accepted substantial help following its earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Bangladesh's Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir said no help was needed because the local emergency services were well equipped.

This would appear to have been contradicted by the sometimes poorly-equipped volunteers scrabbling through the rubble and the apparent starting of a fire by people trying to cut their way through the building.

A senior diplomat with the UN's International Search and Rescue Advisory Group said an offer of help was made to Bangladesh very early on "because the lifesaving window of opportunity is in the first few days".

But, according to the diplomat, the Bangladesh government said it would manage the situation through domestic means.

Rescue work at the site of the Rana Plaza garment factory continued for a sixth day on Monday, but army spokesman Shahinul Islam said "there is little hope of finding anyone alive".

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the site and some of the victims in hospital, assuring them they would receive help from the government.

However, some relatives of those missing complained that she did not speak to them during her visit.

'No-one seen alive'

Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested on Sunday near the Indian border, having been on the run since the collapse of his eight-storey building on 24 April.

A local leader of the youth wing of the prime minister's Awami League party, he was filmed in handcuffs after being flown back to Dhaka by helicopter on Sunday.

Surrounded by police, and shouted at by the crowd, Mr Rana was led into court wearing protective clothing, to hear a magistrate grant a police request to hold him for 15 days for questioning.

He faces allegations of negligence, illegal construction and persuading workers to enter a dangerous building.

Mr Rana is one of eight people arrested. His father Abdul Khalek and four factory bosses are among the others detained.

At least 3,000 people are estimated to have been in the Rana Plaza building when it collapsed. About 2,430 are now known to have survived but hundreds are dead or missing.

On Sunday night, rescuers working deep inside the rubble were told to leave, as cranes were brought in to begin lifting the heavy blocks of fallen concrete.

Bangladesh's economy

  • A total population of some 150.4 million, 88% under the age of 55.
  • GDP in 2012 was around $110bn - the ready-made garment (RMG) industry makes up 80% of all exports, totalling more than $15bn in 2012-13 financial year.
  • About four million people are directly employed in the RMG industry, most of them women, earning an average monthly salary of roughly $40.

Rescue co-ordinators said that work with heavy-lifting gear would be done carefully to avoid further collapses and to protect bodies trapped under the debris as much as possible.

Fire brigade chief Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan said crews had seen bodies lying on the ground inside, but that "no-one was seen alive".

Anger at the building's collapse has triggered days of violent protests in Dhaka demanding those responsible be punished and for an improvement in factory conditions.

Garment industry workers across the country were given the weekend off, in the hope that the anger would fade.

But on Monday, thousands of workers walked out of factories in the Ashulia and Gazipur industrial districts shortly after they opened, and staged a protest march, reportedly setting fire to an ambulance.

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap clothing for major Western retailers that benefit from its widespread low-cost labour.

But the industry has been widely criticised for its low pay and limited rights given to workers and for the often dangerous working conditions in garment factories.

Primark, whose supplier was based in the building, said on Monday that it was helping to provide emergency food aid to the families affected and planned to "pay compensation to the victims of this disaster who worked for its supplier".

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