As the frantic rescue effort unfolded outside, Sohel Rana, the 30-year-old owner of the complex, remained trapped in his office in the building's basement. The story of how he got out is in many ways the story of how the country got into this mess.
An exemplar of the so-called "Bangladeshi dream," Rana owned a slew of buildings on land that many allege he had stolen. A member of the youth wing of the ruling Awami League -- which effectively functioned as muscle for the parent organization -- he had political connections that allowed him to avoid taxes, to acquire land through shady deals, and, fatefully, to ignore building inspectors. Rana's principle source of power, though, was apparently his connection to Murad Jang, the local member of Parliament, for whom he mobilized funds and people.
"Rana was Murad Jang's right-hand man," explained Omar Chowdhury, owner of Syntex Knitwear Ltd., another garment manufacturer.
Armed with Murad's patronage, Rana managed to add additional floors to the flimsy concrete and steel building -- designed to support apartments, not industrial equipment -- and avoid paying taxes on four of its nine stories, according to Iqbal Hossein, a local businessman whose wife works in the local tax office.
"Nothing moves in Savar without Murad Jang giving consent," explained Reswan Selim, owner of anther garment manufacturer in the area.
Trapped beneath the building, Rana called the only man he could count on. By noon, three hours after the building started to give way, Murad's men had rescued Rana from his office. Soon he was on the run, heading initially to a friend's flat in Dhaka with the assistance of the member of Parliamen. When the scale of the tragedy became apparent, however, authorities apprehended him near the border with India.