The death toll in Bangladesh rose to more than 300 Friday after the collapse of a building that housed five apparel factories, officials said, as protests by workers at other garment plants intensified.
Bangladesh police fired tear gas and rubber bullets as hundreds of stick-wielding workers in the Dhaka area stopped highway traffic, smashed vehicles and vandalized garment factories that refused to close during a declared day of mourning.
Traffic was clogged for hours as demonstrators, some waving black flags, called for the arrest and punishment of the owner of Rana Plaza, which collapsed Wednesday morning just outside Dhaka, the capital.
Television footage showed demonstrators smashing the windows of a red city bus and throwing stones at shuttered shops as thick black smoke poured from a building housing two garment factories, several shops and an ATM booth. At least 70 people were reportedly injured in clashes, including several fire and police officials.
The nine-story Rana Plaza, a building with 300 shops on the lower levels in addition to the upper-floor factories, was designed as a five-story building, but its owner added three floors and was building a fourth, according to local media. Workers reportedly noticed serious cracks Tuesday but were told it was safe and ordered to return to their sewing machines.
"In some countries, people get prison for that," said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the IndustriAll Global Union, a Switzerland-based labor group. "These guys should be jailed."
By Friday afternoon, 2,348 people had been rescued, including 72 people pulled out of the debris that day, Shahinur Islam, a spokesman for the defense department, told journalists.
Most of the bodies that had been recovered were delivered to families, authorities said, while 26 unidentified corpses were sent to the morgue.
Two babies were born under debris after their pregnant mothers were trapped in the ruins, a fire service official said. The mothers and newborns were rescued alive.
In an indication of impoverished Bangladesh's low living standards, government compensation was set at $256 for the families of each of the dead and $64 for each injured person.
With many still trapped under mountains of twisted steel and jagged concrete, rescuers feared the death toll would continue to rise. The five factories employed 3,122 workers, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Bangladesh's High Court on Thursday issued a summons to the building owner and owners of the textile plants, ordering them to appear by Tuesday.
On Friday, the Labor and Employment Ministry filed five cases in labor court against them.