Only 149 are missing, claims Army

The coordinator of the rescue operations in Savar has claimed that only 149 people are still missing in the country’s worst ever industrial disaster.

Published : 1 May 2013, 06:36 AM
Updated : 1 May 2013, 02:58 PM

General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Bangladesh Army’s 9th Infantry Division Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardi, who is leading the operation, came up with the figure at a press conference on Wednesday.

The disclosure comes amidst confusion over the exact number of people who got buried under the rubble.

He said the figure was determined on the basis of a list released by the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka. But he could not specify what the premise of such listing was.

He had told a press conference only on Tuesday that they could not find the list of people still unaccounted for and that he had heard that some 3200 workers were inside the building when it caved in.

He had said some 400 decomposed corpses could be sandwiched between concrete slabs and strewn in the inaccessible corners of bottom floors of the ill-constructed nine-storey commercial building Rana Plaza.

No person was rescued alive in the last two days, keeping the figure of survivors unchanged at 2,437. Rescuers gave up on finding any more people alive seven days after the tragedy.

Members of the Fire Service and Civil Defence had said more than 3000 workers were inside when the building collapsed. But workers who were rescued alive said more than 4,500 people were at work on the fateful day.

Rescuers using heavy machinery pulled out 19 more bodies from the tons of concrete rubbles of the huge structure as the rescue operation stepped into eighth straight day on Wednesday.

With the fresh recovery, the death toll now stands at 411, Sub-Inspector Jalal Talukder, told from the Dhaka district control room which has been opened at Adhar Chandra School ground near Rana Plaza to provide information.

After the recovery of bodies from debris, those are being kept at the school ground. After confirmation of their identity, corpses are being handed over to their relatives from there.

The police official Talukder said that among the 411 corpses, 359 were handed over to the relatives.

There were nine unclaimed bodies at the makeshift morgue set up at the school ground and those were sent to the morgues of Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, and Salimullah Medical College and Hospital, also known as Mitford Hospital.

The unidentified bodies kept in the morgues for a few days are being buried at Jurain graveyard, with the graves bearing the numbers corresponding to their DNA samples.

Police have put together a list of almost 1,300 people. The list was seen hanging at Adhar Chandra High School. But the list was not found there on Wednesday.

SI Talukder said he was not aware of why enlisting the missing ones had been stopped.

The ceilings of the nine-storey building were not fully removed on the eighth day. The relatives of the missing claimed their loved ones were still trapped under the fallen ceilings in all the collapsed storeys starting from the third to the ninth.

Rescuers could not reach the staircase where they were expecting to find a lot of bodies. Survivors said many workers were buried while trying to get down the stairs.

The relatives said the number of the missing people was more than 149. Many of them suspected that the dead bodies were being stolen.

BNP chief Khaleda Zia at a public rally in Narayanganj claimed the government was not being transparent about the death toll and demanded real statistics.

But State Minister for LGRD Jahangir Kabir Nanak told a television station at night by marking such remarks, Khaleda raised her suspicion about the media people who are always at the site.

Nanak is overseeing the rescue work at Savar after the building came crushing down suddenly on the morning of Apr 24.

Most of the victims were garment workers since the building accommodated five readymade garment factories on its top floors and some 300 shops, which together employed nearly 6,000 workers.