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Time running out for Bangladeshi workers

SAVAR, Bangladesh — Two owners of garment factories in a Bangladesh building that collapsed into a pile of mangled metal and concrete have been arrested as public fury mounts over the accident that left at least 324 dead.

Junior Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku said Saturday that police had arrested Bazlus Samad, managing director of New Wave Apparels Ltd., and Mahmudur Rahman Tapash, the company chairman.

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He told reporters that police had also detained the wife of Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed building, for questioning.

Authorities said that the death toll had climbed to 324, but that rescuers had pulled seven more survivors from the rubble early Saturday after they found more than 40 survivors inside late Friday.

The arrests came hours after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered police to arrest Sohel Rana and the owners of the garment factories based operating in the building.

Hasina made the order as protests spread over the latest accident to hit Bangladesh’s massive, but poorly regulated, garment industry.

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. Three of the floors had been illegally added.

Fire service inspector Shafiqul Islam, who searched the building, said more than 40 survivors were found late Friday. Through holes in the structure, he gave them water and juice 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.

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

Search crews were 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, rescuers said.

There were fears that even if unhurt, the survivors could be dehydrated, with daytime temperatures soaring to 95 degrees.

Nearly 90 people have been rescued in the last day, as hundreds of rescuer workers crawled through the rubble amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of relatives gathered outside the building.

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. Rescue officials say more than 2,200 have been rescued or escaped.

Police cordoned off the site, pushing back thousands of bystanders and relatives after rescue workers said 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 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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