SAVAR, Bangladesh — Police in Bangladesh took six people into custody in connection with the collapse of a shoddily constructed building that killed at least 348 people, as rescue workers acknowledged Saturday that voices of survivors are getting weaker after four days of being pinned under the unstable rubble.
Still, in a boost for the rescuers, 29 survivors were pulled out Saturday, said army spokesman Shahinul Islam.
Most of the victims were crushed by massive blocks of concrete and mortar falling on them when the eight-story structure came down on Wednesday morning — a time many of the garment factories in the building were packed with workers. It was the worst tragedy to hit Bangladesh's massive garment industry, and focused attention on the poor working conditions of the employees who toil for $38 a month to produce clothing for top international brands.
Among those arrested Saturday were three owners of garment factories, who a Dhaka court ruled can be questioned by police for 12 days without charges being filed. Also detained were two government engineers and the wife of the building's owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, in an attempt to force him to surrender. Authorities say he is on the run.
Violent public protests continued sporadically in Dhaka and spread to the southeastern city of Chittagong where several vehicles were set on fire.
Working round-the-clock since Wednesday through heat and a thunderstorm, rescuers on Saturday finally reached the ground floor from the top of the mountainous rubble through 25 narrow holes they have drilled, said Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed Khan, the head of the fire services. "We are still getting response from survivors though they are becoming weaker slowly," he said.
Junior local government minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak put the death toll at 348.
The military spokesman said 2,429 survivors were accounted for, including the 29 who were pulled out Saturday.
A garment manufacturers' group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside. Police say they ordered an evacuation of the Rana Plaza building on Tuesday after cracks were found, but the factories ignored the order. The disaster is the worst ever for the country's garment industry.