Vol. 5 Num 15 Thu. June 10, 2004  
Front Page

11 die as six-storey building collapses
25 believed trapped in the Shankhari Bazar tragedy

At least 11 people were killed in sleep in a predawn collapse of a six-storey building built on 200-year-old three-storey foundations at Shankhari Bazar in Old Dhaka yesterday, triggering a daylong search for people believed trapped in the rubble.

Some local residents said about 25 people were trapped in subsided lower floors, while others said 11 others, including Bishwa Nath, Modhu Nath, Shankar and Shambhu, were missing.

The building, was among the 32 structures, built without designs, in Shankhari Bazar that Rajuk marked as highly vulnerable.

The Daily Star correspondents saw three top floors of the building, home to 12 families and some shops, propped on nearby buildings and parts of the three lower floors underground or crushed to brick and mortar.

Knocked down electric lines, broken gas pipes and debris littered the area, where old buildings are linked by narrow lanes and by-lanes, as rescuers, spurred by the directive of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to launch an allout rescue operations, tried to pull the survivors from the ruins with bare hands.

"Startled by a big bang and monster jolts, I found the building collapsing," said Pinky, who lived on the second floor of the building, co-owned by Laxmi Dutt, Shibnarayan Nag and Sachin Nag.

Although a storm of dust blasted her eyes and falling masonry sent cold shivers down her spine, she did not lose her sense during the turbulent movements.

Firemen pulled her from a pile of debris later.

"We have rescued nine people and retrieved six bodies from the building," said Selim Newaj Bhuiyan, assistant director of the Fire Brigade.

He said 15 teams were carrying out the rescue operation.

An army rescue team, bringing together personnel from the engineering corps, medical corps and dog squad led by Lt Colonel Mirza Mahbub Anam, rushed to the scene in the morning.

"We'll continue our search manually until we can reach everyone trapped inside alive," Mahbub said, adding a demolition work will follow the rescue drive.

"The demolition operations will take quite sometime," said Abu Naser Mohammed Khalid, additional deputy commissioner of South Zone.

The cave-in killed Kanika Nag, 30, her daughters Puja Nag, 5, and Esha Nag, 1, Maya Rani Nath, 65, Moli Nath, 27, and her son Jayanta Nag, 1, Ram Mahi Sur, 45 and his wife Rani Sur, 39, Joy Nag, 7, Kashi Nath, 35, and Chhobi Kar (age unknown).

Of the injured, Pinky Sur, 15, Madhu Mala Sur, 75, Soma Nag, 32, Giasuddin, 32, and Mithu Kumar Nag were being treated for injuries at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Joy, 30, at the Orthopaedic Hospital.

After the collapse, the top floors of the north-facing building rested on three nearby buildings, causing damage to them.

"I along with seven co-workers was digging earth from the neighbouring plot on the eastern side," said Giasuddin, a day-worker.

"The driver of a truck carrying mud called out an alarm to us, saying the next building was coming crushing down on us."

"I started running, but was injured by falling masonry," he told The Daily Star from his hospital bed, adding, "I saw debris cover two of my co-workers."

Locals alleged Babu Sen, owner of the land where Giasuddin was working, dug his plot 10 feet deep a few days ago to put up a new building after razing down the old one, to the protest of neighbours.

"A big pond on the next plot might have caused the structure to collapse," a local resident said, echoing the views of some others of the neighbourhood who said had Babu stopped the irresponsible digging, the crush could have been avoided.

"We have already discussed at a seminar on June 5 that 140 houses at Shankhari Bazar and 80 percent houses at Tanti Bazar inhabited by thousands of people are vulnerable," Suriya Begum, a ward commissioner of Dhaka City Corporation.


"What I can remember is a rumble, unbroken dark and jolts," said Madhu Mala, adding, "A rescue team pulled me from debris at about 7:30am.

"I do not know where my other family members are?"

Another resident of the house, Bishwajit Nandi, saw his house built for years to collapse to the ground before him.

"I heard a roar and raced out of the house. Then the whole house collapsed in front of my eyes."

Bapon Kumar Sen, who was sleeping along with four others on the roof of the building on a hot, humid night, survived miraculously.

"The building shook up like in a giant earthquake. Then it rested against the nearby buildings. I frantically jumped to one of the nearby buildings and saved myself unscathed."

Bapon's sense of duty saved another eight lives.

"I ferried between the buildings and rescued eight injured people," he said.

Also lucky was Sachin Nag.

"A thunderous sound broke my sleep. It appeared like a monster earthquake. I slipped through a window of my third floor apartment and jumped to the street."


Prime Minister Khaleda and Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina expressed deep shock at the deaths in the building collapse.

Hasina, who visited the scene, urged the government to intensify the rescue operations to dig out the people trapped in the debris of the collapsed building and provide assistance for the victims.

They prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls and expressed sympathies for the bereaved families.

Health and Family Planning Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar and Dhaka City Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka were among others who visited the scene.

The upper half of a six-storey building at Shankhari Bazar in Dhaka tilts after its predawn collapse killed 11 people yesterday. PHOTO: STAR