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Death toll in Bangladesh building collapse passes 300

SAVAR, Bangladesh -- With time running out to save workers still trapped in a collapsed garment factory building, rescuers dug through mangled metal and concrete yesterday and found more survivors -- but also more bodies 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 efforts went on more than two days after the structure crumbled.

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 said from a hospital bed yesterday.

More than 40 survivors were found late yesterday 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.

The search will continue today, officials said, with crews cautiously using hammers, shovels and their bare hands.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, who is overseeing rescue operations, said before 80 evening rescues that 2,200 people have been pulled out alive. Military spokesman Shahin Islam told reporters that 304 bodies had been recovered so far.

Police say cracks in the Rana Plaza had led them to order an evacuation Tuesday, but the factories ignored the order.

Mahbubul Haque Shakil, a spokesman for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said she had ordered police to arrest the building's owner as well as the owners of the garment factories in "the shortest possible time."

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