Seven other people were also arrested for the massive fire that broke out at a food processing site where safety regulations were allegedly breached.
Bangladesh police have arrested the owner of a factory where at least 52 people were killed in a mass fire on charges of murdering children as young as 11 years old.
Four of the owner’s children were also among eight people arrested in total on Saturday for the hell that erupted Thursday and lasted more than a day. A separate investigation has been initiated into the use of child labor in the facility.
Emergency services told Al Jazeera they had recovered 49 of the bodies at the Hashem food and beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial city 25 km (15 miles) east of the capital, Dhaka. Three people also died after jumping from the building.
The charred victims were piled into a fleet of ambulances and taken to the mortuaries amid the anguished screams and tears of the people watching in the streets.
Jayedul Alam, chief of police in Narayanganj district, where the factory is located, said the entrance had been locked at the time of the fire and the factory was in breach of multiple fire and safety regulations.
“It was a deliberate murder,” the police chief told AFP news agency.
A spokesman for the fire services also said the main stairway exit door had been locked. Highly flammable chemicals and plastics had also been stored in the building.
Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury, reported from outside the Rupganj factory, said authorities had moved quickly and noted that it usually takes “several days or weeks” to stop.
“Rupganj police have filed a murder case against them,” Chowdhury said, referring to the detainees.
Authorities said the rescue operation was over. However, Chowdhury said, some employees were still missing, according to relatives.
Meanwhile, Monnujan Sufian, the state’s labor minister, said investigations into the use of child laborers at the factory had begun.
Sufian told AFP he had spoken at a hospital with two 14-year-old survivors. One woman said her 11-year-old nephew had been working in the factory and was missing.
Nazma Akter, founder and executive director of the Awaj Foundation for Workers ’Rights, told Al Jazeera that safety neglect was routine in Bangladeshi factories and that children especially suffer from a lack of protection.
“It is very sad and very disappointing that many children also died in the incident,” Akter said.
“We have [a] law, if there is a young worker or a child worker, [it should be] five hours of work, three hours of education but … they work as adult workers: from 10 to 12 hours, seven days a week, ”he added.
“No one cares about the life and safety problems of workers.”
Bangladesh pledged to make reforms after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, when a nine-story complex collapsed and killed more than 1,100 people.
But there have been a number of fires and other disasters since then. In February 2019, at least 70 people died when a fire ravaged apartments in Dhaka where chemicals were illegally stored.