Mohammed Sohel Rana, the fugitive owner of the illegally-constructed building that collapsed in Bangladesh last week, killing hundreds of people, was arrested yesterday while trying to flee to India, police said. Rana was arrested near the land border at Benapole in western Bangladesh, just as he was about to flee into neighbouring West Bengal, said Jahangir Kabir Nanak, junior minister for the local government.
Rana was brought back by helicopter to the capital Dhaka where he faced charges of negligence. Rana’s capture by the Rapid Action Battalion brought cheers and applause when it was announced on a loudspeaker at the site of the collapsed building in the suburb of Savar.
Reduced to rubble
Rana was a local leader of ruling Awami League’s youth front and had been on the run since Wednesday. He last appeared in public in front of his Rana Plaza on Tuesday after huge cracks appeared in the building. However, he assured tenants, including five garment factories, that the building was safe.
Hours later, Rana Plaza was reduced to rubble, crushing most victims under massive blocks of concrete and mortar. A garment manufacturers’ group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside it when it collapsed. At least 377 people are confirmed to have died in the collapse of the 8-storey building.
Rana had the approval to construct five floors but he added three more illegally. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Awami League leader, ordered his arrest. Rana was presented before the media briefly at the commando force’s headquarters in Dhaka. Wearing a printed shirt, an exhausted and dishevelled Rana was sweating as two security officers held him by his arms.
A security official helped him to drink water after he gestured he was thirsty. He did not speak to the media during the 10-minute appearance after which he was taken away. He is likely to be handed over to local police who will have to charge him and produce him in court within 24 hours.
On Sunday, rescuers were supposed to start using heavy equipment to drill a central hole from the top to look for survivors and dead bodies. But the operation was delayed after rescuers located a woman inside the building, and were trying to pull her out. The woman was later pulled out alive from the rubble. Hasan Akbari, a rescuer, said, “When we tried to extricate a man next to the rescued woman, his body was being torn apart. So I had to let go. But God willing, we will be able to rescue him with more help very soon.”
Fire breaks out at collapsed bldg site
A fire broke out in the wreckage of the garment factory yesterday, injuring three rescue workers, officials said. Authorities said the fire broke out because of sparks generated, as rescuers tried to cut through a steel rod to reach a survivor. Officials said smoke pouring from the piles of shattered concrete halted rescue efforts.