Plea to arrest building, RMG owners

At least 120 people have died and more than 600 others been injured in an nine-storey building collapse in in Savar in the worst such disaster in Bangladesh’s history.

Published : 25 April 2013, 02:31 AM
Updated : 25 April 2013, 07:24 AM

Rescuers say the death counts in the disaster may well rise further as scores are believed to have been trapped under the debris.

It is not clear how many people were inside the building when it grounded, but estimates suggest around 5,000 people, mostly women, were working in the four garment factories at the time.

Salvage operations are running through Wednesday night with flashlights installed but rescuers have complained of the presence of too many people at the scene.

Haider Ali, Additional Secretary at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told on Wednesday midnight that 120 bodies were recovered while 67 of them were handed over to their families and relatives.

The industry lobby has opened three booths -- at Enam Medical College and Hospital, Rana Plaza and Adhar Chandra High School -- to determine the actual number of deceased and injured, and the damages.

Zahidur Rahman, Director, Public Relations of the Enam Medical College and Hospital, where the bodies and the injured were taken, told they had received 91 bodies until 6:30pm.

Rescue workers said that at least 10 more bodies were taken to Savar Upazila Health Complex, Savar Labaid and Savar Model Police Station. Another died on the way to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.

The government has launched investigations into the collapse of the commercial building in Savar that claimed over 100 lives and injured over 600. correspondents in Savar said the bodies have been kept wrapped in plastic sheets in the mortuary. Relatives have taken away many bodies.

Local people have joined Fire Brigade and Civil Defence, Army, Red Crescent, police, RAB in the rescue efforts.

They have been grappling to maintain order in the hospital as hundreds of people including relatives of those missing gathered there.

Abul Khair, a firefighter, said they had been asked to continue their search as many more are feared trapped under heaps of concrete.

He said several holes had been dug around the debris to reach the people trapped and they had tried to provide them with oxygen and water.

The Rana Plaza that housed four garments, a bank, and commercial shops including electronics, computer, cosmetics and clothes, collapsed in the morning hour after garment workers were ‘forced’ to join work.

Since the condition of many of those being treated in local hospitals and clinics is critical, doctors say the death toll could further rise.

Bodies and the wounded were retrieved of the heaps of flattened floors with makeshift slides made from cloth.

Fire Brigade and Civil Defence’s Director General Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan said it would take three days to clear the debris.

BGMEA says the owner Mohammad Sohel Rana was warned on Tuesday to shut the building as cracks appeared. But Rana, who is the Senior Joint Convenor of the local Jubo League, the youth front of ruling Awami League, did not pay heed.

Survivors said they were hesitant to join work in the building Wednesday.

Home Minister MK Alamgir, visited the scene with his many of his Cabinet colleagues and said the building did not follow ‘building code’ during construction. He vowed to bring the culprit to justice.

President-elect Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition leader Khaleda Zia mourned the deaths and expressed their condolences to the victims’ families.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has announced Tk 40 million in aid for the victims.

Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali has directed Tk 20,000 in cash for each of the families of the deceased and Tk 3,000 for the injured.

The Prime Minister has ordered the local administration to carry out the rescue operation on a war footing.

The main opposition-led alliance lifted their shutdown in Dhaka three and a half hours before schedule. The government has declared a national mourning on Thursday.

The heads of European Union missions in Dhaka, US Ambassador and Transparency International of Bangladesh (TIB) expressed their condolences at the loss of lives.

The TIB demanded a judicial probe.

Bangladesh is the world’s second-leading garment exporter behind China, but the industry has been fraught with safety concerns, angry protests over poor wages and labour-rights issues.

Bang and panic

Savar Model Police Station OC Asaduzzaman said the rear of the building suddenly started to collapse at around 8:30am. Within a short time, the whole structure, except the main pillar and parts of the front wall, caved in triggering an all-round panic.

Four army teams have joined the police, RAB, firefighters and the locals in expediting the rescue work.

Traffic on the Dhaka-Aricha Highway was disrupted after the building collapse as thousands of people came out to join the rescue.

OC Asaduzzaman said four garments factories and a bank branch located in the complex were closed on Tuesday after the building’s wall showed cracks. However, some workers returned to factories on Wednesday before the collapse.

A nearby stall owner Sujon Mia told the building collapsed suddenly with a loud sound.

The ground and first floors of the Plaza had shops selling electronic goods, computers, perfumes and garments, and also had a branch of the BRAC Bank.

On the second floor was New Wave Bottoms Limited, Phantom Apparels Ltd on the third floor, Phantom Tack Ltd on the fourth floor and Ethar Textile Ltd on the fifth.

Engineer Abdur Razzak had said the building needed to be examined by structural experts from BUET for risk assessment.

He had also forewarned about a possible collapse.

Building collapses are not infrequent in Bangladesh, specially in Dhaka, where construction laws are seldom enforced.

In one of the worst such incidents, at least 70 people were killed when a garment factory had collapsed outside Dhaka in 2005.

At least 14 died and 25 were injured when another high-rise building owned by a government official had collapsed on tin-roof shanties in June 2010.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher