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South Asia

Protesters, police clash over Bangladesh factory collapse

Thousands of protesters have clashed with police in Bangladesh over the death of almost 300 garment workers in a building collapse. The violence comes as rescue workers continue their search for survivors.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators Friday in the textile hub of Gazipur, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the capital Dhaka. The rally, made up of garment workers who sew clothes for Western companies, included road blockades and attacks on factories.

At the site of the building collapse in Savar, 25 kilometers northeast of Dhaka, police used tear gas and bullets to keep crowds from entering the accident area. TV footage showed protesters chanting next the bodies of the collapse victims, demanding justice for those responsible.

Rescue workers, meanwhile, were working Friday to find survivors amid the rubble and twisted metal. At least 290 people were killed in the accident, with many still unaccounted for. Rescuers reportedly found around 50 people in the debris overnight.

Evacuation order ignored?

The building, which contained a bank, shops and several floors of garment factories, collapsed on Wednesday after deep cracks were seen developing in its walls a day earlier. Authorities say bosses at the garment factories ignored an official order to clear the building.

As many as 3,100 people, mainly female garment workers, were said to have been in the building at the time of the collapse. Officials say that, so far, about 2,000 have been rescued.

North American and European companies, including British retailer Primark and Canada's Loblaw, have said they were supplied by factories in the building.

'None will be spared'

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed said Thursday that anyone found responsible for the incident would be prosecuted.

"None will be spared even if they are members of my Awami League party," she said.

Garment manufacturing accounts for more than 79 percent of Bangladesh's export earnings, but recent accidents have raised concern over the industry's safety standards.

In November, 112 workers were killed when a factory caught fire in Dhaka. In 2005, 64 people were killed in a Savar factory collapse, while at least 22 people were killed in a Dhaka building collapse in 2006.

dr/ccp (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)