Despite having modern heavy equipment, the combined rescue team is yet to finish their task, three daysafter Rana Plaza at Savar collapsed, since their use may put the lives of the survivors trapped in the rubble at risk.
The team has already rescued over 2,300 survivors and recovered over 300 bodies from the debris. It was learnt that there was still a possibility of getting at least 350 more workers still breathing inside the building that collapsed Wednesday morning.
According to officials of the disaster management ministry, the government has a good number of modern equipment. “We can use the modern equipment that we have, but we cannot use all of it to rescue the trapped people as it may cause more fatality. We are using only a few equipment as we want to rescue them alive,” Disaster Management Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
“After rescuing all the survivors, the team will use those modern and heavy equipment to recover the bodies which are still under the covered part of the building,” he added.
The minister assured that the rescue operation would continue until all the survivors and the bodies were recovered from the site.
The spokesman of the combined rescue team at Savar also admitted the problem yesterday. The official said they could not use all of the equipment they had to save lives and were trying to save them using light and traditional equipment.
Mohammed Abdul Wazed, director general of the Department of Disaster Management, told the Dhaka Tribune that the government had procured some modern equipment in 2010 spending around Tk600m for conducting rescue drives after any kind of disaster.
“We have handed over the equipment to the concerned agencies like the Armed Force’s Division, Fire Service and Civil Defence, Coast Guard and the city corporations. Necessary trainings have also been given to operate those equipment properly when needed,” added the official.
Besides procuring the rescue tools, the government is working to establish a well-trained volunteer group of 66,000 people. So far, 23,000 volunteers have been trained, he said.
The locals are also working in the rescue of the ill-fated workers. “It helped us continue the rescue operation with modern light and traditional equipment. We are getting good results by using those successfully,” said Wazed.
A group of trained volunteers are also working at the Savar site along with the professional rescuers of the fire service and the combined rescue team.
According to the information available with the ministry, the government procured dredgers, excavators, cranes, fork lifts, personal locator system, generators, gas cutters, concrete cutters, power chain saws, breathing apparatus, high pressure air bags and other rescue gears.
“Most of the light equipment has already been used in the rescue operation at Savar. We could not use the heavy equipment in this rescue drive to save the survivors. We cannot use those heavy equipment until they are rescued,” Wazed told the Dhaka Tribune.
Disaster Management Minister Mahmud Ali has expressed his contentment over the rescue work. “The death toll could have reached one third of the workers trapped in the building unless we had the modern equipment. We supplied them oxygen, water and food using the new equipment. The rescuers cut concrete with these tools and supplied such things to keep them alive until they are rescued.”
He, however, said the government needed more equipment for better preparedness during rescue operations. “We are planning to purchase those tools soon. A proposal has already been prepared and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office and Ecnec [Executive Committee of National Economic Council] for approval,” the minister added.