SHAFAQNA - Bangladeshi police say they have made three arrests after a garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 300 people.
The building's owners and an engineer who was responsible for maintenance were arrested on Saturday after the death toll rose to 324.
"We've arrested Bazlus Samad, the chairman of New Wave Buttons and New Wave Style factories, and Mahmudur Rahaman Tapash, a managing director of one of these plants, after midnight," Shyamal Mukherjee, deputy chief of Dhaka police, told AFP news agency.
One manager for the New Wave Styles company, one of the five manufacturers in the building, said the owner had consulted an engineer but then ignored his warnings.
"Those who're involved, especially the owner who forced the workers to work there, will be punished," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told lawmakers.
"Wherever he is, he will be found and brought to justice."
The police said they plan to arrest at least ten more, after the Hasina's statement.
Widespread anger has been fuelled by revelations that factory bosses forced 3,000 workers to continue working on Wednesday despite police orders to evacuate the building because of cracks found in the structure the day before.
Thousands of garment factory workers in Bangladesh protested on Friday.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday as protesters attacked factories and smashed vehicles, forcing many garment factories to shut down operations.
"The situation is very volatile. Hundreds of thousands of workers have joined the protests," M Asaduzzaman, an officer in the police control room, told the AFP news agency. "We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them."
He said some of the protesters were armed with bamboo sticks and their actions had forced factories at Gazipur, just outside the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, to close for the day.
Mustafizur Rahman, the deputy police chief of Gazipur, said workers had attacked factories, smashed vehicles, burnt tyres on the roads and tried to torch roadside shops on the sidelines of the rally.
"They are demanding the arrest and execution of the owners of the factories and the collapsed building at Savar," he told AFP.
The overnight rescue of 45 people late on Thursday who were trapped inside the debris of the eight-storey building in the commercial suburb of Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, raised hopes of thousands of relatives.
Al Jazeera's special correspondent, not named for security reasons, said that the rescue workers did not have proper equipment.
"It's quite a risky operation and concerete can collapse at any moment on whoever is alive on the inside," said our correspondent reporting from Dhaka.
An estimated 2,000 people had been rescued in two days, at least half of them injured, but up to 1,000 people remained unaccounted for, the Reuters news agency reports.
It prompted new criticism of Western companies who were accused by activists of placing profit before safety by sourcing their products from the country despite its shocking track record of deadly disasters.
British low-cost fashion line Primark and Spanish giant Mango have acknowledged having their products made in the collapsed block, while a host of brands including Wal-Mart and France's Carrefour are investigating.
Italy's Benetton placed large orders with one of the suppliers, documents found by activists appeared to show, but the group has denied having links to the building.
The US said it could not confirm whether any US companies were sourcing garments from the complex, as protesters in San Francisco targeted the headquarters of Gap with banners reading "No More Death Traps".
"But it does underscore that there's a need for the government, owners, buyers and labour to find ways of improving working conditions in Bangladesh," Patrick Ventrell, a deputy State Department spokesman, said.
Human Rights Watch said the tragedy showed there was an "urgent need to improve Bangladesh’s protections for worker health and safety".
"Reforms should include a drastic overhaul of the government's system of labour inspections and an end to government efforts to thwart the right of workers to unionise," the rights body said.
"Given the long record of worker deaths in factories, this tragedy was sadly predictable," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement published on the group's website.
SHAFAQNA-- The death toll from the disastrous factory building collapse in Bangladesh has jumped past 300, as rescue workers and relatives continue their search for possible survivors.
Army spokesman Shahinul Islam on Friday put the death toll from the April 24 collapse at 304.
He said more than 2,300 people have been rescued, including 72 on Friday, since the eight-story building of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed.
The new death toll was announced as thousands of people still surrounded the site of the incident, in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, in search of missing relatives.
On Thursday, demonstrators took to the streets of Dhaka to protest against poor working conditions and safety standards, with Western clothing retailers blamed for failing to provide basic working standards for their Asian suppliers.
Police officials say Rana Plaza factory owners had ignored warnings against allowing workers into the building after deep cracks were detected in the walls the day before the collapse.
Last November, more than 110 workers died in a blaze that engulfed a factory in an industrial suburb of Dhaka. Over 70 people were also killed when a garment factory building collapsed in the same area in 2005.
SHAFAQNA-- A search for survivors is continuing at a building which collapsed in a suburb of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, killing at least 200 people.
Rescue workers are working with volunteers to free survivors trapped inside the remains of the building.
Tens of thousands of weeping family members have gathered at the site.
Police said the factory owners had ignored warnings not to allow their workers into the building after cracks were noticed on Tuesday.
The High Court has summoned the building owner and senior management staff of the factories to appear before judges on 30 April, local media report.
The factory owners are said to have gone into hiding.
Police earlier confirmed that cases had been filed against the building owner and the owners of the factories for causing unlawful death.
The exact number of those trapped is not clear, but accounts from survivors and eyewitnesses suggest there may be hundreds still unaccounted for.
The disaster has prompted questions over Bangladesh's chronically poor safety standards.
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.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced a national day of mourning on Thursday in memory of the victims.
Thousands of garment workers in other areas of Dhaka have taken to the streets and blocked roads to protest at the deaths of the workers in Savar.
'Like a pancake'
Some 2,000 people were in the Rana Plaza building in Savar, some 30km (20 miles) outside Dhaka, when it collapsed suddenly on Wednesday morning.
Firefighters and soldiers joined volunteers in the effort to locate survivors in the mangled wreckage of concrete and steel.
Rescue workers and volunteers have been using heavy machinery and their bare hands to free survivors.
Trapped workers can be heard inside the rubble, screaming for help. Food and water is being passed to survivors through gaps in the the rubble.
Lengths of textile that were earlier being cut into garments - many destined for Western consumers - were now being used as makeshift slides to evacuate survivors and corpses.
Mosammat Khursida told the Associated Press (AP) news agency she was looking for her husband.
"He came to work in the morning. I can't find him," she said. "I don't know where he is. He does not pick up his phone."
Lines of relatives filed by numbered bodies of victims, looking for their family members.
"Save us brother. I beg you brother. I want to live... It's so painful here ... I have two little children," Mohammad Altab, a garment worker trapped in the building told rescuers, according to AP.
Only the ground floor of the building remained intact, officials said.
"The whole building collapsed like a pancake within minutes. Most workers did not have any chance to escape," national fire department chief Ahmed Ali told AFP news agency.
Local hospitals were overwhelmed with the arrival of more than 1,000 injured people.
Speaking at the scene, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir said the building had violated construction codes and "the culprits would be punished".
There are reports that the building owner had illegally added three extra stories to the building.
In November, a fire at a garment factory in the Dhaka suburb of Tazreen drew international attention to working conditions in Bangladesh's textile industry.
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.
It said it was "shocked and deeply saddened by the appalling incident" and that it would work with other retailers to review standards.
Discount giant Wal-Mart - which was found to be sourcing products from the Tazreen factory - said it was still trying to establish whether its goods were being produced at the Rana Plaza.
"We remain committed and are actively engaged in promoting stronger safety measures, and that work continues,'' said Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner.
A company called New Wave, with two factories in the building, supplies firms from around Europe, the US and Canada.
Meanwhile, Spanish retailer Mango said it had not been using any of the suppliers in the building but had been in talks with one of them to produce a batch of test products.
Edward Hertzman, a textiles broker based in New York, told Reuters news agency that pressure from US retailers to keep costs down was in part responsible for unsafe conditions.
"Bangladesh is the longest lead-time country and a difficult country to work in, so the only way it becomes competitive is by offering the lowest [cost]. That's the catch-22," he said.
"If the factories want to raise prices to make up for rising wages and costs, the buyers say: 'Oh why do we want to go to Bangladesh if I could go to China, Pakistan, Cambodia etc for a similar price?"
He said if Western companies really wanted safety standards to improve, they would have to accept that they needed to start paying higher prices.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –An eight-storey block housing factories and a shopping center collapsed on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital on Wednesday, killing more than 70 people and injuring hundreds, a government official said.
Fire fighters and army personnel worked frantically through the morning at the Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (19 miles) outside Dhaka, to rescue people trapped inside.
One fireman told Reuters that about 2,000 people were in the building when the upper floors jolted down on top of each other.
Bangladesh's booming garment industry has been plagued by fires and other accidents for years, despite a drive to improve safety standards. In November last year, 112 workers were killed in a blaze at a factory in an industrial suburb of Dhaka.
"It looks like an earthquake has struck here," said one resident as he looked on at the chaotic scene of smashed concrete and ambulances making their way through the crowds of workers and wailing relatives of those still inside.
"I was at work on the third floor, and then suddenly I heard a deafening sound, but couldn't understand what was happening. I ran and was hit by something on my head," said Sohra Begum a worker at one of the garment factories.
M.M. Niazuddin, the government's health secretary, told Reuters that at least 76 people were confirmed dead. Another official said hundreds were being treated for injuries.
Mohammad Asaduzzaman, in charge of the area's police station, said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday.
Buildings in the crowded city of Dhaka are sometimes erected without permission and many do not comply with construction regulations. Dozens died when a garment factory collapsed in the same area eight years ago. -www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A mine has collapsed in Ghana's central gold-producing region killing at least 16 people who were working illegally and had been told to leave by the operator, local police have said.
A total of 16 bodies were recovered from the site of the incident near the town of Kyekyewere on Monday afternoon, according to area police commander William Otu. The town is about 300km north of the capital Accra.
The operator had completed its work in the area and had returned only to shut down the mine and affirm its claim to the land, Otu added, without identifying the company.
Otu said the operator found several people from the local community mining illegally, who refused when asked to leave.
Not long after, "the operator got information that the mine caved in and covered the people," the police commander said.
The west African nation of about 25 million people is one of the world's top gold exporters.
Many of the mining operations revolve around unlicensed - and hence illegal - outfits, known locally as galamsey, which are often funded by foreign speculators and criminals.
According to an Al Jazeera investigation, some of the operators even employ children, and pay less than six US dollars a day, in "primitive" working conditions.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The death toll in the collapse of a building in a Mumbai suburb rose to 72 people amid expectations that no one pulled out of the debris would be found alive.
The two-day rescue operation in Thane would end on Saturday, police said, confirming that they had pulled out 20 bodies overnight.
Most bodies have been recovered, but some people might still be trapped in the debris, said Sandeep Malvi, a spokesman for the local municipal corporation.
A section of the seven-storey unfinished building, home mostly to labourers working on the site, first collapsed late on Thursday evening before the entire structure came down.
Police officer Dahi Phale said that rescue workers with sledgehammers, chainsaws and hydraulic jacks worked through Friday night to break through the tower of rubble in their search for possible survivors.
Six bulldozers were brought to the scene.
National Disaster Management Authority volunteers managed to rescue an elderly woman from the collapsed building late on Friday.
She had been trapped for several hours under the debris.
The victims were workers and members of their families who were living in some of the still-unfinished areas of the building.
The Hindustan Times daily newspaper said the builders may have flouted norms.
"Seven floors were built in merely three to four months. It was bound to collapse due to the inferior construction material used by the builders," the paper quoted the local head of the disaster management cell as saying.
Building collapses are a common occurrence in India, where a booming economy has led to a mushrooming of multi-storey structures which are often unauthorised and flout safety laws.
Two years ago, 66 people were killed and 80 were injured when a building collapsed in Delhi.
"India hs a very stringent and tough building regulations, but many get through the cracks," Al Jazeera's Sohail Rahman said, reporting from Mumbai.
"It's very difficult to try and adhere to the building regulations, and also police it".-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Thousands of mourners chanting for the downfall of Egypt's president marched in funerals again Tuesday in the restive city of Port Said as the army chief warned the state could collapse if the latest political crisis drags on.
Army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's warning, his first comments after six days of rioting and violence across much of the country, appeared aimed at pressuring Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in particular but also his opponents to find some common ground and the worst political crisis to hit Egypt since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.
So far, the military -- which for months seems to have had an understanding with Morsi -- has allowed him to deal with the crisis and on his orders deployed troops and tanks over the weekend in Port Said and Suez, two riot-torn cities along the strategic Suez Canal.
But it has been willing to go only so far, clearly reluctant to clash with protesters. Troops stood by and watched Monday night as thousands took to the streets in direct defiance of a nighttime curfew and a 30-day state of emergency declared by Morsi in the cities.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: The Sacramento Bee
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —The Afghan government could implode after NATO troops pull out in 2014, particularly if presidential elections are fraudulent, according to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG).
A repeat could undermine what little hope remains for stability after the Afghan government takes full responsibility for security from US-led NATO forces, the analysis by the respected Brussels-based group says.
The report, Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition, says the country is on course in 2014 for another set of fraudulent elections after the chaotic presidential and parliamentary polls in 2009 and 2010.
"There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon NATO's withdrawal," Candace Rondeaux, the ICG's senior Afghanistan analyst, says in the report.
"The window for remedial action is closing fast."
"The Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition," Rondeaux says. "Another botched election and resultant unrest would push them to breaking point."
The coalition, which has waged an 11-year war against Taliban fighters, is reducing its troop numbers from a peak of some 130,000, and almost all combat forces are scheduled to quit the country by the end of 2014.
Within hours of the report's publication, a suicide car bomber targeted on Monday a police station in Lashkar Gar, capital of the southern Helmand province, killing two intelligence agents and wounding 15 other people.
Afghan police are increasingly targets of such assaults as they take a bigger role in the fight against the Taliban in the run-up to of the NATO withdrawal.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Kabul, Rondeaux said: "Today you have an economic crisis which is growing by the day, and there is a lot of fear among Afghans over the future of Karzai's regime, and no one knows what is going to happen."
She said that up until now there are no visible preparations for the elections. "Instead what you have are the gears of transition working in reverse against the gears of transformation," she said.
"Everyone was hoping that 2014 would be the dawn of the new age politically for the country. Now there is a great deal of concern that these elections may not even happen."
The UN-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and the parliament have failed to take any serious steps towards preparing for a clean vote, Rondeaux said.
"Karzai seems more interested in perpetuating his own power by any means rather than ensuring credibility of the political system and long-term stability in the country."
The president is constitutionally required to step down at the end of his second term in 2014, and has said he will do so, but there are fears that he might try to manipulate the polls to ensure the election of an ally, possibly one of his brothers.
"The danger is President Karzai's top priority is maintaining control, either directly or via a trusted proxy," Rondeaux says in the ICG report.
"He and other leading members of the elite may be able to cobble together a broad temporary alliance, but political competition is likely to turn violent on the heels of NATO's withdrawal."
The report said the possibility cannot be excluded that Karzai will declare a state of emergency as a means of extending his power, which would accelerate state collapse and likely precipitate a civil war.
"If that occurs, there would be few opportunities to reverse course in the near term. Securing the peace in Afghanistan would then remain at best a very distant hope," Rondeaux said.
Renewed strife seen
The ICG is not alone in predicting trouble ahead. Gilles Dorronsoro, Afghan expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also sees renewed strife and even a Taliban return to power.
"After 2014, the level of US support for the Afghan regime will be limited and, after a new phase in the civil war, a Taliban victory will likely follow," Dorronsoro wrote in a recent analysis.
This sort of forecast contrasts sharply with assurances of a secure Afghan future by Western governments desperate to get out of the long war, but gloom is widespread.
The outgoing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan said on Monday that for ordinary Afghans the conflict had got worse during his seven years in the post.
"I am filled with concern as I leave this country," Reto Stocker said.
"Since I arrived here in 2006, local armed groups have proliferated, civilians have been caught between not just one but multiple front lines, and it has become increasingly difficult for ordinary Afghans to obtain health care." www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Elite British universities face a "collapse into global mediocrity" within a generation, say the compilers of a new league table of the world's best universities.
Leading universities in the UK have tumbled down the Times Higher Education rankings, while Asian institutions are advancing up the table.
Caltech, the private US university based in Pasadena, California, takes top place, while Oxford and Stanford are joint second. Further down the rankings, US and British dominance is being eroded.
Three English universities are in the top 10. Cambridge is seventh and Imperial College eighth in the rankings published on Wednesday.
Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle have all fallen down the rankings, as have Glasgow and Aberdeen. St Andrews and Sussex have dropped out of the top 100 altogether this year.
Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education rankings, said: "Outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, England's world-class universities face a collapse into global mediocrity, while investment in top research universities in Asia is starting to pay off," he said.
China has Peking University and Tsinghua University in the top 200, both of which climbed this year. Singapore's top two institutions also advanced up the table. Korea has four universities in the top 200, all of which have climbed this year with Pohang University of Science and Technology at number 50.
Britain remains the second-best represented country behind the US, with seven top 50 universities and 31 in the top 200. While there are 76 US universities in the top 200.
A separate league table published last month, the QS World University Rankings, was also dominated by US universities.
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, which includes Oxbridge, said: "If we are serious about staying on top, the government must concentrate investment where it will have the most impact: in our world-class research-intensive universities.
"Our global competitors are pumping billions into research-intensive higher education and leading Asian universities – especially in South Korea, Singapore and China – are rising fast. The UK cannot afford to be outmanoeuvred by other countries that recognise investment in leading universities is key to growth."
David Willetts, the universities minister, said the UK could not afford to be complacent. "In future, any country that stands still – or moves forward only slowly – will find itself slipping down the international league as other countries try harder, invest more and improve their research," said Willetts.
Times Higher Education world university rankings 2012-13
1. California Institute of Technology
=2. University of Oxford
=2. Stanford University
4. Harvard University
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6. Princeton University
7. University of Cambridge
8. Imperial College London
9. University of California, Berkeley
10. University of Chicago— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The attack came after thousands of Saudi protesters took to the streets in Qatif on Friday, demanding the release of political prisoners, including a prominent Shia cleric.
Chanting slogans in support of social justice in the oil-rich Eastern Province, protestors also asked the regime to stop killing civilians by the Saudi-backed forces in neighboring Bahrain.
Tensions are running high in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province in the past weeks following the detention of Shia cleric Sheikh Nemr al-Nemr.
Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in the Kingdom's east, mainly in Qatif and Awamiyah, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination.
An interview with Ali al-Ahmed, director of IGA, to further discuss the issue. The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Al-Ahmed: I think so since the arrest of Sheikh Nemr the protest frequency has accelerated and the protest movement in the country not only in the Eastern region has expanded.
We saw that yesterday in Jeddah where a few people were gathering outside the ministry of the interior in Jeddah’s, you know, the branch there.
So we are seeing more protests across the country increasing and I have information that the end of Ramadan will have many protests in different cities and new cities in fact to take advantage of the King’s announcement of the conference, so-called Islamic solidarity conference at the end of Ramadan.
So we are seeing an acceleration of the protest movement across the country in different and new cities in fact.
Q: Mr. Al-Ahmed, the response of security forces has also been getting harsher when it comes to these protests as they have picked up since the arrest of Sheikh Nemr. How do you see the continued escalation in the brutality of the Saudi forces moving onwards in the coming days and months as these protests intensify and more eyes are on Saudi Arabia?
Al-Ahmed: They are I think motivated by two things: that they are unable to do anything else, but use violence against mostly young protesters; and the silence of the international community is encouraging them to shoot and to use brutal force against peaceful protesters.
So I think this will continue. However this will encourage the protest movement even further. We will see that in the coming weeks in Ramadan will be really a changing and it will mark a massive change in the protest movement in the country.
Q: The Al Saud household is going through internal frictions of its own as we have seen over the past weeks and months coupled with this intensified protest movement, which is as you have mentioned spreading across the kingdom. What is to come? Is this the beginning of the end of the Al Saud?
Al-Ahmed: I think we are seeing this end more realistic than before, the fact that they are now fighting within their ranks. Among the questions that the security forces have been asking certain activists that if they have any contact with members of their own families who have already departed and are working against the regime.
So we are seeing even within the ruling family, fighting. We have a princess who sought asylum or others who are now outside the country and trying to really unseat the current leadership and just put it to the right stability because of the in-fighting and the end of the Saudi state will be mostly rousted not because of this protest movement alone, but because of the division where it is within the ranks of their own family.
Q: And before I let you go Mr. Al-Ahmed this also brings up the question of Bahrain, the Saudis clinched their grips on the Bahraini protesters in the hopes that it will not have spillover effects in its own soil but that has failed quite clearly. How is the Saudi response to Bahraini protesters going to be from here onwards?
Al-Ahmed: I think they will try to make an example of Bahrain to scare their own population. That has been the policy, what they call it kill one Shia to scare the rest into defense because they know that the protest movement is now reaching Riyadh and Jeddah and other Sunni Muslim strongholds and it is going to mark the rapid end of this cursed family forever. —www.shafaqna.com/english