Vol. 5 Num 314 Thu. April 14, 2005  
Front Page

Strong corpse stench wafts around
Rescuers reach third floor, find only one body

As the stench of rotting corpses rises from the ruins and the cries for help cease, rescuers have little chance to pull out alive some 300 people still trapped under the ruins 72 hours after a nine-storey building collapsed at Savar in the early hours of Monday.

No more trapped workers have been retrieved, alive or dead, in the last 24 hours until 1:00am today. The confirmed death toll remained at 30, while 85 workers were either rescued or dodged death until that time.

A stench of rotting bodies seeping through the cracks and crevices of the concrete mess filled the air at the scene as temperatures soared to 34 degrees Celsius, a grim sign that most of around 300 workers still trapped under the debris might have died.

"A strong stench was coming out as we were going deeper in the search tunnel. There is very little hope of finding anyone alive as I did not find movements or hear screams," said Khorshed Alam, a firefighter.

The stench has become so bad that it is now hampering the rescue effort, with the rescuers covering their noses with cloths as they search desperately among the rubble.

Rescuers were pinning their hopes on the third floor of the building for more survivors, as most of the workers were doing the night shift on that floor during the deadliest building collapse in country's history.

"We dug through the third floor, cutting a search tunnel in the evening and found only some packed cartons, not anyone dead or alive," Brigadier General Nizam Uddin, who is co-ordinating the massive rescue operations, told The Daily Star at 8:00 last night.

The rescue workers split the collapsed structure in three parts and were mainly cutting the slabs in small pieces, using vibrators and gas cutters and then removing them with cranes.

But, by yesterday afternoon they had succeeded in removing only three floors at the southern portion of the collapsed building. They were, however, still working hard to remove the top floor in the northern side.

"We'll not hurry the operation. We will cut slabs in small pieces and remove them to save any survivors there and to keep the bodies in good shape," Nizam said.

Around 400 trained rescuers from the Army, and Fire Service and Civil Defence were working round the clock on six-hour shifts. The Army yesterday took over the search for survivors, aided by around 100 day-labourers with shovels and baskets.

General Nizam expressed the hope that by today they will reach the bottom of the building through the 'inspection hole' after cutting through all the thick concrete slabs.

"The rescue work has slowed down for the last few days due to narrow space. By this time we have filled up marshy land around the collapsed building and we're well equipped. So, the pace of work should speed up," Nizam said.

"On the whole, we have removed 25 percent of the collapsed structure," Nizam said.

However, no-one could say for sure how many days it would take to entirely remove the debris.

Ambulances and coffins, meanwhile, wait only yards from the collapsed building.

Many distraught people continue to rush to the scene in search of their near and dear ones, crying out and frantically enquiring about their relatives.

So far, an information board at the site's army control room shows that 126 people are still missing since the collapse.

The Awami League, meanwhile, will observe a day of mourning across the country tomorrow to grieve for the 30 dead workers. Special prayers will be offered at mosques, temples, churches and pagodas.

A relative of a garment worker trapped inside the wreckage of the collapsed garment factory at Palashbari, Savar, weeps while waiting for news of her missing loved one yesterday.. PHOTO: AFP