Rescue operations at Savar’s collapsed Rana Plaza are expected to end within the next couple of days. Saturday, the rescuers tried to pull out the last big concrete slab from the first floor, on the 19th day of the operation.
“We have reached the basement of the building from the rear and front sides. We are now trying to remove the roof of the first floor, since morning,” Brig Gen Azmal Kabir, commander of the 14th Independent Engineering Brigade of Dhaka Cantonment said.
He said: “The basement will be open after we grind the roof with heavy equipment. We have noticed waterlogging on the front side of the basement, which the fire service is trying to remove with hosepipes.”
“Once the basement is cleared, the army rescuers will search for any remaining bodies,” he added.
Azmal said: “Today, we have pulled out only two bodies from the debris so far, which indicates that we have come close to wrapping up the rescue operation,” adding that the possibility of finding anyone alive again was thin.
He referred to Reshma, the garment worker, who was rescued alive after being buried under the debris for 17 days, and said: “It was simply a miracle. She survived even when we used heavy equipment to lift the wreckage; somehow the place she was trapped in was not damaged during the building collapse.”
The ‘miracle’ girl Reshma was rescued on Friday; approximately 400 hours after the collapse of Rana Plaza.
Commenting on the time needed to wrap up the operation, Azmal said: “I think it will take time to remove the last slab as it is thicker than the others; the rescuers have been using hammers and manual equipment along with the heavy ones to finish the work quickly.”
However, a highly placed army official, preferring to remain unnamed, said they might finish the second phase of the rescue operation today, with the site being handed over to the district administration by Monday.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the eight-storey building collapse has reached 1,120. Until now [until the report was filed] a total of 828 bodies have been handed over to the relatives.
According to sources in the army control room set up at the disaster site, the last two bodies were recovered during the time period of midnight of Saturday to 6pm yesterday. They also informed that a total of 2,438 people have been rescued alive so far.
Still, a number of relatives were seen carrying their missing relatives’ photograph at the Adhar Chandra High School’s field, where the dead bodies have been brought after recovery, since the first day of the incident.
Rana Plaza, which housed five garment factories, collapsed on April 24, killing over thousand people and injuring more than 2,000 as the owners of the factories forced several thousand workers to work even after cracks had appeared and were identified on some pillars and floors the day before.
It is still unclear how many workers were there in the building at the time of the collapse.