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Bangladesh united in grief over a failed rescue from collapsed factory

Many hundreds have been rescued so far. But a fire broke out today amid the rubble of the collapsed building, ending hopes of saving a known survivor named Shahina Akhter.

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Bangladesh’s elite crime busting agency Rapid Action Battalion on Sunday arrested Sohel Rana, owner of Rana Plaza – the eight-story commercial complex – that housed five factories, a few shops, and a private bank. Mr. Rana was arrested from Benapole, one of the border crossings Bangladesh shares with India

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“All agencies were alerted about Rana. We were finally able to arrest him,” said Mukhlesur Rahman, director general of the Rapid Action Battalion. He had traveled to more than one district in the last four days, he added. 

Bangladesh police have also arrested four of the owners of the five factories: Mahmudur Rahman Tapas of New Wave Bottoms, Bazlus Samad Adnan of New Wave Styles, Aminul Islam of Phantom Apparels and Phantom Tac Limited, and Anisur Rahman of Ether Tex.

Yet political disagreements are already on the horizon. Bangladesh’s right-wing opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has called for a countrywide shutdown on May 2, protesting the deaths at Savar.

A BNP official noted that the day of the factory collapse, the party had called for a nationwide general strike, or hartal, on unrelated matters. Abdul Moyeen Khan, standing committee member of the BNP, implied that workers in the cracked building were forced to come to work in a political bid to prove that people defied the hartal

“Work was called off the day cracks were identified. What turned so important for the workers to gather during a hartal?” he said.“You must have noticed that several survivors said that they were threatened that their pay will be docked.”

The government is now faced with trying to manage anger from a second major factory disaster within the past half year. In November, a fire broke out in a factory on the outskirts of the capital, killing more than 100 people.

So far, the government has highlighted the rescue efforts as a major success, with as many as 2,400 rescued. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “This has perhaps never happened in the history that so many lives were rescued after such a disaster.”

[Editor's note: The name of the woman who died is Shahina Akhter. This story adds her last name.]

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