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Dhaka Tribune

Families in agony as destruction begins

Update : 30 Apr 2013, 04:36 AM

Rescuers have been using heavy machinery to remove the debris of Savar’s Rana Plaza yesterday, since the chance of finding a survivor has slimmed as the rescue operations entered the sixth day.

However, the relatives of hundreds of ill-fated workers who are still missing have refused to leave.

They crowded around the debris through the day and night, hoping for a miracle, fighting through the stench of decomposing bodies still trapped under the rubble, which makes it nearly impossible to stand there for long, eyewitnesses said.  

Many have given up hope of seeing their loved ones alive, but stay on to at least recover the bodies and give them proper burials, they added.   

Early into the day, five more bodies were pulled out of the wreckage, hiking the death toll to 382, rescuers said. Already, 329 bodies have been handed over.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Rasel Sheikh said relatives of more than 800 people have claimed that they were still missing.

The number of survivors stands at 2,437, as none were found on the sixth day. However, the rescuers were unwilling to stop their search for anyone alive.

Maj Gen Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, GOC of 9th infantry division of the army, which is leading the operation, said: “The chances of finding people alive are very slim, so we have stepped up our rescue operation to save any life we can. We are being extremely cautious.”

The second phase of the rescue, called “equipmental evacuation,” used hydraulic cranes to remove heavy concrete slabs and pillars that could not be moved by hand.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director Shahinul Islam said the second phase of rescue operations, which started Sunday night, is using a vertical approach.

He said rescuers have dropped a camera with specialised sensors into the ruins through a tunnel bored through the piled floors to spot any remaining survivors. 

The ISPR official said rescuers were trying to lift concrete floor slabs one by one, which each weigh five to seven tonnes. “We will try to go down and search for more bodies once [the slabs] are out of the way.”

Shahinul added that the rubble lifted by the cranes are being dumped on the banks of Bangshi River and behind Enam Hospital.

He added the fire that erupted in a tunnel of the collapsed building Sunday night is yet to be extinguished, and smoke was still coming out of it. “We were unable to douse the fire as debris are still scattered all over the floor.”

The fire broke out around 10pm on Sunday in one of the tunnels cut into the rubble.

Firefighters said it could have been cause by the garments inside the factories catching fire from the sparks cause by rescuers cutting steel rods to reach Shahina Akter, who was alive at the time. However, she suffocated to death from the smoke caused by the fire.

Officials said that the eight-storey complex was built on unstable ground without correct permits. More than 3000 garments factory workers, mainly young women, were allegedly forced to work in the five factories housed in the building on the fateful day, despite warnings about its structural safety.

Rescue workers have been combing the rubble since its collapse on Wednesday morning.

BGMEA has camped at the site and has been drawing up a list of victims to receive compensation.

Meanwhile, thousands of garment workers stormed out of their workplaces and vandalised several factories in Savar and Gazipur when the readymade garment factories reopened Monday morning after a two-day closure.

They vandalised at least 200 vehicles in Savar during the demonstration, protesting the workers deaths in the Rana Plaza cave-in. 

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