Dhaka - Bangladeshi police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday as protestors attacked factories and smashed vehicles during a mass rally by garment workers over the deaths of nearly 300 colleagues.
An AP report on Friday said the death toll at the Rana Plaza building had reached 290, with 2 200 people rescued. The five factories in the eight-storey building are reported to have employed 3 122 workers.
The police used rubber bullets after demonstrators, some of whom were armed with bamboo sticks, blockaded roads and forced factories at Gazipur, just outside the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, to close for the day.
"The situation is very volatile. Hundreds of thousands of workers have joined the protests. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them," M Asaduzzaman, an officer in the police control room, said.
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 said.
It is the latest disaster to befall the garment industry in Bangladesh after a fire at a factory making clothing for Walmart and other Western labels in November.
Survivors have said the building developed cracks on Tuesday evening, triggering an evacuation of the roughly 3 000 garment workers employed there, but that they had been ordered back to production lines.
Local television channel Somoy said the protests by workers also spread to several districts in the capital including at Mirpur, home to dozens of garment factories.