The Savar Rana Plaza tragedy reaches its nadir with the death toll rising along with the number of the injured.
So far 2,375 wounded people have been rescued and 310 bodies recovered from the rubble, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director Md Shahinul Islam said while briefing reporters in the temporary control room at the site around 5pm.
Our reporter at the spot, Samiul Bashar Anik, said 87 people were rescued from the building today and another 21 dead bodies were pulled out, one of which was pulled out after the briefing.
However, many more are feared trapped in the collapsed building.
The exact number of those caught in the rubble could not be determined yet as efforts to recover the bodies of the victims have been hampered by a lack of adequate emergency lighting, the gathering of wailing relatives and the presence of enormous boulders.
Besides, inadequate equipment and inexperience in facing such a catastrophe further hinder the rescue operation that has continued day and night.
Tens of thousands of people crowd around the rubble, weeping and searching for family members.
Workers trapped in the wreckage of the collapsed building cried out for help yesterday as rescuers struggled to reach them.
Quoting trapped people, a local rescuer Mehedi said: “We want to live. Take us out of the wreckage, [even if it means] cutting off our legs and hands.”
He said at least 60 people were trapped inside there.
“I talked to them and touched their hands through a hole. Their hands and legs were under the debris,” said the rescuer.
Five or six of them were pulled out by cutting their hands or legs, sandwiched between sections or rubble of the collapsed building. They were rushed to Gonoshasto Hospital, Savar.
Mehedi came to search for his father.
“I heard my father say: 'Don’t worry baba. We, nine people, are in a safe place.' But by Thursday morning he said he felt suffocated.”
A survivor of the Rana Plaza tragedy Lablu Mia, 35, recalled his harrowing experience while lying in a hospital bed at the Enam Medical College Hospital Thursday.
He said he was working on the eighth floor when the building started to shake.
“We shouted loudly. The whole building became dark. It was like we were in a grave. I did not think I would breathe again. Some asked me to say the azan,” Lablu said. He is one of the survivors who did not receive any major injury.
“We all were praying. Later, there was a little opening through which we were rescued.”
Lablu and his wife were working on the same floor of the building. Both of them were injured and are being treated at the hospital.
Momata, 35, a cleaner for New Weave Bottoms that was housed in the Rana Plaza, escaped the accident. She said around 200 workers were on the third floor of the eight-storey building.
Cutting master Kabir of New Weave Bottoms said all the workers were on the third floor as the building collapsed. Rescue workers are yet to get to the floor.
A local rescuer Amir Hossain said a group of four to seven people were trapped in a small space near a pillar on the fifth floor.
He said after trying for hours to rescue them, he sought the help of the government rescue team, but they gave up hope, as it was very risky to cut the pillars.
Amir heard the sound of cries coming from inside, but could not indentify exactly where they were coming from.
Akter, 17, who came from Dhamrai to look for his father Anawrul Islam and uncle Robiul Islam trapped on the fifth floor, said: “I have talked to my father on the phone 17 times.”
The young boy joined the rescue team and pulled three people out of the rubble on Wednesday, and is still searching for his father and uncle with the hope of finding them alive.
Mohammad Isaque, who worked at a shop on the second floor, said on the day of collapse he was drinking tea and waiting for the gate to be opened at 9am as usual.
“But suddenly I heard a bang and a piece of brick hit my head. Then I went unconscious,” he said, showing his wounds.
“A day before the building collapsed, the owner of the building told us that the building was ok. He said the engineers who detected the crack in the building were not qualified enough, that good engineers would be hired,” Isaque said.
Lt Abdullah Al-Amin, head of a rescue team, said it might take two or three days to complete the rescue operation.
“Many are still trapped in the building,” he said, adding that inadequate rescue equipment, inexperienced workers and dark environs had delayed the rescue operation.
Asaduzzaman, officer-in-charge of Savar police station, said 258 bodies were handed over to their relatives and 10 unidentified victims had been sent to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital for DNA tests.
Chowdhury Hossain Sarwardy, GOC of nine infantry division, said a large contingent of rescue workers was engaged in the rescue operation.
The crowd of near and dear ones of the victims around the spot hampers rescue works, he said, adding that there is no lack of coordination among the rescue workers.
ISPR Director General Shahinur Islam said: “We are yet to use heavy machinery as there might still be chance of finding people alive inside the wreckage.”
“From Saturday, we will use cranes and other heavy machinery to remove the boulders,” he added.
Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan, director general of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, said so far 2,000 of 3,000 people trapped inside the building had been rescued.
“Some might still be alive on the second and third floors. We are doing our best to rescue them from the wreckage.”