"With no modern equipments to use, they are drilling holes and looking for survivors," Hussein of Transparency International told CNN. "Victims are shouting from inside the debris, there is the stench of dead bodies, blood -- things can't be worse."
He added that survivors who cannot be immediately freed from the rubble because of lack of equipment "are sent water, food and, in some cases, oxygen cylinders."
Collapse came a day after cracks appeared
The collapse in suburban Dhaka occurred Wednesday morning, a day after cracks appeared in the structure. It has stirred outrage in Bangladesh over lax safety standards in the country's key industry.
Most of the victims appear to have been garment factory workers, who had been told to report to work despite their concerns that the building's structure was not sound. The cracks led the bank to order its employees not to report for work Wednesday, and the shops in the mall were closed because of a strike.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association announced Friday that all garment factories would be shut over the weekend "for treatment of victims of the Savar building collapse and completion of the rescue operation successfully."
The association said it would pay the salaries and dues of workers of the stricken building by the first week of May.
Authorities have said they did not know what caused the collapse or how many people remained inside the debris. But a police official said relatives had reported 595 people still missing.
Demands for punishment
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday ordered police to arrest the owners of the building and the factories so that they can "face legal actions," her spokesman said.
"It is not an accident, it is a killing incident," Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told reporters. "All, including owners and administrative officials concerned, must be put on the dock for the killing of people."
The nation's high court ordered Thursday that the owners, who are believed to be in hiding, appear in court Tuesday, CNN affiliate Boishakhi Television reported.
During protests Thursday, demonstrators carried black flags. Some set fires, and others used clubs to break the windshields of passing trucks.
Hundreds of workers lay siege to the head office of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association at Karwan Bazar in Dhaka.
They demanded the arrest of the factory owners and called for the death penalty for Sohel Rana, the owner of the building.
The vice president of the garment association, Shahidullah Azim, said the organization had suspended the factories' memberships.
The demonstrations in Dhaka continued Friday.
Questions for Western companies
The catastrophe is the latest to strike Bangladesh's garment industry, which employs more than 4 million people -- most of them women -- and regularly comes under scrutiny for its slipshod safety standards.
It also raises questions for the Western brands that contract with factories here to make their products. According to BSS, the United States receives 23% of the products -- more than any other individual nation.