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Fire breaks out at site of Bangladesh factory collapse, killing last known survivor

Kevin Frayer / AP

Bangladeshi rescue workers react after a fire breaks out in a tunnel workers were using to search for survivors in a building that collapsed Wednesday in Savar, Bangladesh, on Sunday night.


Hopes of finding more survivors in the wreckage of a collapsed garment factory in Bangalesh all but disappeared on Sunday night when a fire broke at the site of a disaster that has already claimed the lives of 377 people.

Among the dead was the last known survivor of the building’s collapse five days ago, the national fire chief told AFP news service.

Rescue crews and firefighters were shown weeping on live television after the death of a women garment worker, identified as Shahnaz, who had clung to live for more than 110 hours after a disaster that has raised

"The fire broke out as we were cutting a beam to bring out what we believe was the last remaining survivor from the collapsed building. We managed to douse it, but as we came back we saw her dead," Ahmed Ali told AFP.

"She was a brave lady and fought until the end. We worked for 10-11 hours today just to try to bring her out alive. We took the challenge but we lost."


Mohammed Sohel Rana, the fugitive owner of an illegally-constructed building that collapsed last week in Bangladesh.

The blaze was ignited by sparks from saws used by rescuers, according to fire service officials.

Factory owner held
Earlier, police said the owner of  the factory, Mohammed Sohel Rana, was arrested as he tried to flee to India.

According to Reuters, Rana was arrested by the elite police squad in the border town of Benapole, Dhaka District.

Police Chief Habibur Rahman said Rana’s capture ended a four-day manhunt that began after Rana Plaza, which housed factories making low-cost garments for Western retailers, caved in on Wednesday.

Bangladesh television showed Rana, who leads a youth organization that is part of the ruling Awami League, being transported to the capital Dhaka by helicopter where he will face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.

Four people were pulled from the collapsed factory alive on Sunday after nearly 100 hours under the rubble. Rescuers were working frantically to save more when the fire broke out.

"The chances of finding people alive are dimming, so we have to step up our rescue operation to save any valuable life we can," Major General Chowdhury Hassan Sohrawardi, coordinator of the operation at the site, told Reuters.

Death toll likely to rise
Officials have put the latest death toll at 377 – the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh's history – and that number is expected to climb because hundreds more people remain missing.

Some 2,500 people had already been rescued from the building, which is in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 20 miles from the capital, Dhaka.

Officials have said the eight-story complex was built on spongy ground – over a pond filled with sound -- without the proper permits.

The disaster has sparked days of protests and clashes in Bangladesh, with police forced to use tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets on demonstrators, who had set cars ablaze.

On Sunday, garment workers blocked a highway in a nearby industrial zone of Gazipur and demanded capital punishment for the building owners.

Opposition parties have called for a national strike on May 2 to protest the disaster.

Reuters contributed to this report.

The owner of a building that collapsed killing hundreds has been arrested in Bangladesh. As many as 900 people remain missing in the ruins of the building in Dhaka. Rescuers are still pulling people alive from the rubble, but the pace has slowed, and the number of dead seems certain to rise from the current count of 360. ITN Piers Hopkirk reports.