Rescuers have yet to find a way to enter the basement of the Café Queen building in Old Dhaka’s Siddique Bazar, which was rocked by a devastating explosion that left 17 people dead and several others missing.
The authorities are waiting for suggestions from the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (RAJUK) and the army before initiating a rescue mission as the building has been deemed 'risky' and may collapse, according to Brig Gen Md Mainuddin, director general of the Fire Service and Civil Defence.
Although a preliminary search was conducted in the morning, emergency workers are awaiting input from other organisations before starting a full-fledged rescue operation in the 'hazardous' building, he said.
A national committee has been formed to oversee the rescue operation at the basement of the Café Queen building, according to Deputy Commissioner Md Zafar Hossain of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Currently, the building is classified as 'high risk', prompting the fire service to halt their rescue efforts on Tuesday night. “They started some of the preparatory work by entering through the adjacent building. The main rescue work will start on the basis of the national committee's recommendations. As of now, rescuers are working without the use of any heavy equipment,” said Hossain.
The police officer did not provide any further details on the workings of the national committee.
A massive explosion rocked the seven-storey building on North South Road late on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to the employees at different stores inside the building, pedestrians and vehicles were also caught in the blast.
The bodies of the 17 people killed in the deadly explosion have been handed over to their families.
No one was rescued on Wednesday, said Brig Gen Md Mainuddin. Also, none of the people undergoing treatment in Dhaka Medical College Hospital have succumbed to their injuries as of Wednesday morning, according to DMCH Director Brig Gen Nazmul Haque.
Meanwhile, families of the missing gathered near the Café Queen building in search of their loved ones.
Abdul Mannan, a relative of Mehedi Hasan Swapan. who worked at a shop in the building, was found weeping at the scene. Swapan, a 38-year-old native of Noakhali’s Shonaimuri went missing after the blast.
“There must be people trapped inside. Please make some effort [to rescue them],” Mannan said.
Shahadat came from Shariatpur in search of his younger brother, 20-year-old Robin Hossain Shanto. Robin worked at Anika Sanitary, situated on the ground floor of the building. He, too, went missing after the incident.
The owner of Anika Sanitary, 45-year-old Momen Hossain Sumon, is also missing, Shahadat said.
Momen owned four shops bearing the same name in different parts of Siddique Bazar, said Mahbub Hossain, an employee at one of the shops. Momen was at the shop in Café Queen when the blast took place.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police chief Khandker Golam Faruq said efforts are underway to determine the cause of the blast, but no evidence of explosives has been found yet.
Emergency workers were joined by the dog squad to hunt for bodies under the debris, said fire service official Shahjahan Molla.