New York Times
DHAKA, Bangladesh - Thousands of garment workers rampaged through industrial areas of the capital of Bangladesh on Friday, smashing vehicles with bamboo poles and setting fire to at least two factories in violent protests ignited by a deadly building collapse this week that killed at least 324 workers.
The protests came as rescue teams spent a third day searching for survivors in the rubble of the building, the Rana Plaza, in a suburb of the capital, Dhaka. Officials reported that 72 people were pulled out alive, a rare bit of good news in what is already considered the deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry here - with a death toll expected to keep rising.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered the arrests of the owner of Rana Plaza, as well as the owners of four garment factories that were operating on the upper floors of the eight-story building. Pressure also mounted on Western clothing brands that rely heavily on Bangladesh to manufacture their products to help pay for programs to improve factory safety. Labor activists have found labels inside the wreckage for clothes being made for J.C. Penney, Cato Fashions, the British retailer Primark, and other clothing brands.
Two of the factory owners turned themselves in to the police early today, bdnews24.com, an online newspaper, reported.
A special government committee has been appointed to investigate the accident, and questions are arising about why more than 3,000 employees were working at Rana Plaza when it collapsed Wednesday morning. Cracks had been discovered in the structure a day earlier, and police officials and industry leaders say they had asked the factory bosses to stop work until the building had been inspected.
"I wouldn't call it an accident, I would say it's a murder," said the government's information minister, Hasanul Haque Inu.
Friday's protests ricocheted among industrial sections of Dhaka as garment workers took to the streets. Many of the protesters demanded the death penalty for Sohel Rana, the owner of the building, as well as the owners of the garment factories on the upper floors. More than 150 vehicles were reported damaged, and protesters burned two factories.
In Narayanganj, an industrial district near the capital, protesters vandalized at least five garment factories and clashed with police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. Ten people were injured and nearly two dozen workers were arrested on vandalism charges after demonstrations halted traffic on a major road.