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Engineer arrested in building collapse

03 May 2013, 12:04

Dhaka - Bangladeshi police arrested the engineer who warned that a building housing garment factories was unsafe a day before it collapsed, killing at least 500 people.

Abdur Razzak Khan worked as the Rana Plaza owner's consultant when the owner illegally added three floors atop his five-storey building, police official Ohiduzzaman said on Friday. Khan was arrested on Thursday on a charge of negligence.

Owner Mohammed Sohel Rana called Khan to inspect the building after it developed cracks on 23 April, local media have reported. Khan appeared on a private television station saying after his inspection that he told Rana to evacuate the building because it was not safe.

Khan, a former engineer at Jahangirnagar University near Savar, said he drew attention of the government engineers for the building to be examined further.

Police ordered the building evacuated, but witnesses say Rana told people gathered outside the next morning that the building was safe and that garment factory managers told their workers to go inside. It collapsed hours later.

Police official Ohiduzzaman said Khan was arrested on charge of negligence.

The elected mayor of Savar municipality, Mohammad Refatullah, also has been suspended for alleged negligence in approving the design and layout of the doomed building, said Abu Alam, a top official of the local government ministry.

Alam said an official investigation has found that the mayor ignored rules in approving the design and layout. The mayor is from main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and the opposition BNP has criticised the suspension as politically motivated.

Assets frozen

Authorities raised the confirmed death toll to 487 late on Friday morning in the deadliest disaster to Bangladesh's $20bn-a-year garment industry that supplies global retailers.

Workers were carefully using cranes to remove the concrete rubble.

"We are still proceeding cautiously so that we get the bodies intact," said Major General Chowdhury Hassan Suhwardy, the commander of the area's army garrison supervising the rescue operation.

The official number of missing was still at 149 though unofficial estimates are higher.

Rana was arrested earlier and is expected to be charged with negligence, illegal construction and forcing workers to join work, which are punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail. Authorities have not said if more serious crimes will be added.

The Bangladesh High Court has ordered the government to confiscate Rana's property and freeze the assets of the owners of the factories in Rana Plaza so the money can be used to pay the salaries of their workers.

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms.

- AP


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