Officials said soon after the collapse that numerous construction regulations had been violated.

Rana, the building's owner, had been given a permit to erect a five-story building but had added another three stories illegally, said Abdul Halim, an official with Savar's engineering department. Police chief Mohammed Asaduzzaman said police and the government's Capital Development Authority have filed negligence cases against Rana.

Habibur Rahman, police superintendent of Dhaka district, said Rana was a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front.

Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, called on Rana and the factory owners to surrender during a meeting with the prime minister late Friday.

The disaster is the worst ever for the country's booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve worker-safety standards. Since then, very little has changed in Bangladesh, where low wages have made it a magnet for numerous global brands.

Bangladesh's garment industry was the third-largest in the world in 2011, after China and Italy, having grown rapidly in the past decade. The country's minimum wage is now the equivalent of about $38 a month.

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, pants and other garments a year.

The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for several major North American and European retailers.

Britain's Primark acknowledged it was using a factory in Rana Plaza, but many other retailers distanced themselves from the disaster, saying they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse or had not recently ordered garments from them.

Wal-Mart said none of its clothing had been authorized to be made in the facility, but it is investigating whether there was any unauthorized production.

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