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Western firms to pay compensation over Bangladesh factory collapse

Bangladesh factory owner Mohammed Rana is taken to jail as one of eight people being held responsible for the deaths of nearly 400 people when the building collapsed. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown.

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Two Western retailers have promised to compensate families of garment workers killed while making their clothes in a Bangladesh factory building that collapsed last week in the country's worst industrial accident.

The pledge from Britain's Primark and Canada's Loblaw came after the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza was brought before a court in the capital, Dhaka, on Monday, where lawyers and protesters chanted "hang him, hang him."

At least 385 people were killed in the disaster, the latest incident to raise serious questions about worker safety and low wages in the poor South Asian country that relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports.

With almost no hope left of finding further survivors, heavy machinery has been brought in to start clearing the mass of concrete and debris from the site in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 20 miles from Dhaka.

Eight people have been arrested: four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana, and his father, Abdul Khalek.

Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he was in Bangladesh at the time of the accident.

The collapse of an illegally constructed factory four days ago in Bangladesh, the world's second largest producer of clothing, is responsible for the deaths of at least 400 people, while up to 900 could still be trapped inside. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

There were angry scenes as Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League's youth front, was led into court on Monday wearing a helmet and protective police jacket, witnesses said.

"Put the killer on the gallows. He is not worth any mercy or lenient penalty," one onlooker outside the court shouted.

Rana, who was arrested on Sunday by the elite Rapid Action Battalion while apparently trying to flee to India, was ordered to be held on remand for 15 days for interrogation.

Khalek, who officials said was named in documents as a legal owner of the Rana Plaza building, was arrested in Dhaka on Monday. Those being held face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.

About 2,500 people have been rescued from the wrecked building, which housed several factories on the upper floors, but hundreds of the mostly female workers who are thought to have been inside remain unaccounted for.

Primark, which was supplied by one of the factories operating at Rana Plaza, said on Monday that it was working with a local nongovernmental organization to help victims of the disaster.

"Primark will pay compensation to the victims of this disaster who worked for its supplier," said the company, owned by Associated British Foods. "This will include the provision of long-term aid for children who have lost parents, financial aid for those injured and payments to the families of the deceased."

Loblaw Companies Ltd., which had some of its Joe Fresh clothing line manufactured at Rana Plaza, said it too was offering compensation.

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.

"We are working to ensure that we will deliver support in the best and most meaningful way possible, and with the goal of ensuring that victims and their families receive benefits now and in the future," said spokeswoman Julija Hunter in an email.

The International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, said it was sending a high-level mission to Bangladesh in the coming days.

"Horror and regret must translate into firm action," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a statement. "Action now can prevent further tragedy." 

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