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Bangladesh factory owner arrested, death toll at 377

The fugitive owner of the building which collapsed was arrested as he was trying to flee the country.

Firefighters rescued people trapped in a factory that collapsed in Bangladesh on 24 April, 2013. Picture: AFP.

DHAKA - The owner of a factory building that collapsed in Bangladesh killing hundreds of garment workers was arrested on Sunday trying to flee to India, as hopes of finding more survivors from the country's worst industrial accident began to fade.

Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested by the elite Rapid Action Battalion in the border town of Benapole, Dhaka District Police Chief Habibur Rahman told Reuters, ending a four-day manhunt that began after Rana Plaza, which housed factories making low-cost garments for Western retailers, caved in on Wednesday.

Bangladesh television showed Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League's youth front, being flown by helicopter to the capital Dhaka, where he will face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.

Authorities put the latest death toll at 377 and expect it to climb higher with hundreds more still unaccounted for.

Four people were pulled out alive on Sunday after almost 100 hours beneath the mound of broken concrete and metal, and rescuers were working frantically to try to save several others still trapped, fire services deputy director Mizanur Rahman said.

"The chances of finding people alive are dimming, so we have to step up our rescue operation to save any valuable life we can," said Major General Chowdhury Hassan Sohrawardi, coordinator of the operation at the site.

About 2,500 people have been rescued from the wrecked building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km from the capital, Dhaka.

Officials said the eight-storey complex had been built on spongy ground without the correct permits, and more than 3,000 workers - mainly young women - entered the building on Wednesday morning despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.

A bank and shops in the same building closed after a jolt was felt and cracks were noticed on some pillars on Tuesday.

Police said one factory owner gave himself up on Sunday following the detention of two plant bosses and two engineers the day before.

Anger over the disaster has sparked days of protests and clashes, with police using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to quell demonstrators who set cars ablaze.

Garment workers blockaded a highway in a nearby industrial zone of Gazipur on Sunday demanding capital punishment for the owners.