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Bangladeshi soldiers stand in the rubble at the site of a building that collapsed Wednesday in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, April 26, 2013. By Friday, the death toll reached at least 270 people as rescuers continued to search for injured and missing, after a huge section of an eight-story building that housed several garment factories splintered into a pile of concrete. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
Death toll in Bangladesh collapse passes 300
First Published Apr 26 2013 09:46 am • Last Updated Apr 26 2013 02:19 pm

DHAKA, Bangladesh • With time running out to save workers still trapped in a collapsed garment factory building, rescuers dug through mangled metal and concrete Friday and found more survivors — but also more corpses that pushed the death toll past 300.

Wailing, angry relatives fought with police who held them back from the wrecked, eight-story Rana Plaza building, as search-and-rescue operations went on more than two days after the structure crumbled.

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Amid the cries for help and the smell of decaying bodies, the rescue of 18-year-old Mussamat Anna came at a high cost: Emergency crews cut off the garment worker’s mangled right hand to pull her free from the debris Thursday night.

"First a machine fell over my hand, and I was crushed under the debris. ... Then the roof collapsed over me," she told an Associated Press cameraman from a hospital bed Friday.

More than 40 survivors were found late Friday evening on some floors of the Rana Plaza, said fire service inspector Shafiqul Islam, who searched the building. Through holes in the structure, he gave them water and juice packs to combat dehydration in the stifling heat and humidity.

"They are alive, they are trapped, but most of them are safe. We need to cut through debris and walls to bring them out," Islam said.

By Friday night, more than 80 survivors had been rescued, according to officials at a command center.

But more dead were also discovered. Shamim Islam, a volunteer who entered the collapsed building along with rescue workers, said he saw "many bodies inside."

"I threw some water bottles through a hole, as there were some survivors, too," he said.

The search will continue into Saturday, officials said, with crews cautiously using hammers, shovels and their bare hands. Many of the trapped workers were so badly hurt and weakened that they needed to be removed within a few hours, the rescuers said.


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There were fears that even if unhurt, the survivors could be dehydrated, with daytime temperatures soaring to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and about 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.

Hundreds of rescuers crawled through the rubble amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers’ relatives gathered outside the building, which housed numerous garment factories and a handful of other companies.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, who is overseeing rescue operations, said before the evening rescues that 2,200 people have been pulled out alive. 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 Wednesday in Savar, a suburb of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka.

Military spokesman Shahin Islam told reporters that 304 bodies had been recovered so far.

An AP cameraman who accompanied a rescue crew Thursday heard the anguished cries for help from two men — one half-buried under a slab beside two corpses, the other entombed deep in the rubble. The first man later died and the second had not been heard from for hours and is presumed dead, rescuers said.

Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy told reporters that search-and-rescue operations would continue until at least Saturday, because "we know a human being can survive for up to 72 hours in this situation."

Forty people had been trapped on the fourth floor of the building until rescuers reached them Thursday evening. Twelve were soon freed, and crews worked to get the rest out safely, Shikder said. Crowds burst into applause as survivors were brought out.

Police cordoned off the site, pushing back thousands of bystanders and relatives after rescue workers complained the crowds were hampering their work.

Clashes broke out between the relatives and police, who used batons to disperse them. Police said 50 people were injured in the skirmishes.

"We want to go inside the building and find our people now. They will die if we don’t find them soon," said Shahinur Rahman, whose mother was missing.

Thousands of workers from the hundreds of garment factories across the Savar industrial zone and other nearby areas marched elsewhere to protest the poor safety standards in Bangladesh. Local news reports said demonstrators smashed dozens of cars Friday, although most of the protests were largely peaceful.

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