Asia

Dhaka building collapse: 'Large group' found alive

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Media captionBBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan: "I spoke to a senior fire service official... He said in one room they found about 23 people"

Bangladeshi rescue workers say a large group of people has been found alive inside a garment factory on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka.

Rescuers had dug tunnels and located as many as 50 people trapped at various places on the third floor of the building, one report said.

A fire official told AFP he hoped to dig the survivors out by Saturday.

Officials say Wednesday's collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building killed at least 314 people.

The disaster has sparked large protests in Dhaka.

Protests and prayers

Excitement spread among hundreds of volunteer rescue workers as loud speakers summoned ambulances to the site, says the BBC's Rakib Sumon at the scene.

At least 23 survivors had been located in one air-pocket of the collapsed building, while two more groups were located close by, bringing the total to as many as 50, says our reporter.

He adds that teams from the army, the fire service and border guards had been drilling holes through concrete walls and pushing through oxygen cylinders and water bottles in an attempt to keep those trapped alive until they could be freed.

Although some 2,200 people have been rescued from the Rana Plaza building in Savar since it collapsed suddenly on Wednesday morning - with more than 40 being rescued in the last 24 hours - hundreds of people are still missing.

Officials say the companies based in the building employed 3,122 staff, but it is not known exactly how many were inside at the time of the collapse.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for special prayers for the victims to be held across the country on Friday.

Earlier, police said that at least 10,000 people had joined protests calling for the arrest of the building's owner and for the government to improve conditions for garment workers.

Police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowds, who had blocked roads, torched buses and attacked textile factories.

The owner of the building, according to police, ignored warnings about cracks appearing earlier this week. He is said to be in hiding, but Sheikh Hasina has promised that he will be punished.

Billion-dollar companies

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap clothing for major Western retailers which benefit from its widespread low-cost labour.

But the industry has been widely criticised for its low pay and limited rights given to workers and for the often dangerous working conditions in garment factories.

Primark, a clothes retailer with a large presence in Britain, confirmed that one of its suppliers was on the second floor of the Rana Plaza, and said it would work with other retailers to review standards.

Labour rights groups say the companies have a moral duty to ensure their suppliers are providing safe conditions for their employees.

"These are billion dollar companies. They have a huge amount of power to change the way that building safety is accepted here," Gareth Price-Jones, Oxfam's country director for Bangladesh, told Reuters.

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