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May 06, 2013 at 09:58pm IST

Bangladesh building collapse toll tops 640

Dhaka: Bangladeshi police are investigating possible murder charges against the owner of a shoddily built factory that collapsed nearly two weeks ago after the wife of a garment worker crushed in the accident filed a complaint. The legal development comes as officials on Monday said that the death toll from the country's worst industrial disaster had reached 645.

Sheuli Akter, wife of Jahangir Alam, filed the complaint with Dhaka magistrate Wasim Sheikh, saying her husband and other workers were "pushed toward death" by building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and two others.

ALSO SEE Bangladesh building collapse: Owner faces murder complaint

Alam was employed in New Wave Styles Ltd, one of the five garment factories housed in the eight-story Rana Plaza that collapsed April 24 as workers started their morning shift even though cracks had developed in the building.

Bangladesh building collapse toll tops 640

By afternoon on Monday, the death toll in one of the worst building collapse in Bangladesh had reached 645, according to the police.

New Wave Styles owner Bazlul Adnan and local government engineer Imtemam Hossain were the two others accused in the case. Magistrate Sheikh ordered police to investigate the complaints, and local police chief Mohammed Asaduzzman on Monday said that they would now investigate possible murder charges.

A conviction for murder can result in a death sentence in Bangladesh. Nine people, including Rana and Adanan, have already been arrested on other charges. Rana faces charges such as negligence and illegal construction, which are punishable by a maximum of seven years in jail.

By afternoon on Monday, the death toll had reached 645, according to the police control room at the scene. It is not known how many people are still missing, as workers use heavy equipment to search through the rubble. There is still a stench around the collapse site from decomposing bodies.

An architect whose firm designed the initial floors of the building on Sunday said it had not been designed for heavy industrial work. Masood Reza, an architect with Vastukalpa Consultants, said they designed the building in 2004 as a shopping mall and not for industrial purposes.

Officials say Rana illegally added three floors and allowed the garment factories to install generators. Vibrations from garment machines and from the generators were thought to have contributed to the collapse.