DHAKA, Bangladesh — The death toll from the collapse of an eight-story building in Bangladesh reached 250 late Thursday as thousands took to the streets of Dhaka in protest.
The demonstrators shouted, “Hang them!” and demanded the arrests of the owners of the building, which collapsed Wednesday, as well as the garment factories it housed.
More than 2,000 people have been pulled alive from the wreckage of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, northwest of Dhaka, police officer Mohammad Asaduzzaman said.
More than 1,500 people were injured, and an unknown number of people were still trapped.
Zahidul Islam, a director in the fire service and civil department, said 24 people were rescued on Thursday.
Meanwhile, private broadcaster Independent Television reported that six of 40 people found alive under the rubble were also freed. The 40 were found in a room by rescuers squeezing through gaps in the rubble, a day after the building collapsed.
“We will continue the search for one more day … as a person can remain alive for 72 hours in such conditions,” said Syed Hasan Suhrawardy, an army officer supervising the rescue operation.
One victim was stuck between a pillar and a large chunk of broken wall. “I want to live. Please help get me out of here,” he said in footage aired on the ATN Bangla news channel.
“We are going to bore holes through the roof and go inside,” said Brig. Gen. Mohammad Siddiqul Alam Sikder, who was also supervising rescue operations.
The protesters blocked highways and damaged vehicles. Several hundred workers surrounded the headquarters of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association in Dhaka, demanding the death penalty for the factory owners they blamed for the deaths.
“Arrest them! Hang them!” the protesters chanted.
The Home Affairs Ministry ordered the arrest of Sohel Rana, the building owner and a local leader of the ruling Awami League party, after he reportedly assured factory owners of the building’s safety, saying it had been tested by engineers a day ahead of the collapse.
Rahan was accused of using substandard building materials, Asaduzzaman, the police officer, said.
The collapse took place as a ninth floor was under construction and after a large crack developed in the building, workers said.
Police and the Dhaka development authority filed two cases against the owners of the building and the garment factories while the government formed four teams to investigate.
The High Court ordered the authorities to bring before it the building’s owner as well as the chairmen and managing directors of the garment factories by April 30.
Television footage showed hundreds of people near the site, some weeping as they clutched photographs of their missing relatives.
Bodies were lined up on a school playground, wrapped in plastic and cloth, as relatives filed past to identify loved ones.
Rescuers from the army, fire service, and civil defense and police departments were joined by several hundred college and university students as well as local residents in clearing the rubble, a witness said.
The rescuers were trying to supply water and oxygen through gaps in the rubble to those trapped.
The national flag flew at half mast at all governmental and many other buildings as a day of mourning was officially declared.
Employees said more than 5,000 garment makers worked in the building. Garment manufacturers put the figure at 2,200.
Accidents in the garment industry, which accounts for 79 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings, have raised questions about safety standards in the sector.
In November, 112 workers were killed when a factory caught fire near Dhaka. Sixty-four people were killed when a factory collapsed in the Savar suburb in 2005.
In 2006, at least 22 people were killed when another building collapsed in Dhaka.