Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013

DEATH TOLL 384

End to hopes

Heavy equipment come in for recovery; 7 more bodies recovered

Relatives of the people yet to be found after the Rana Plaza collapsed on Wednesday demonstrate near the site in Savar yesterday.  Photo: Rashed Shumon

Relatives of the people yet to be found after the Rana Plaza collapsed on Wednesday demonstrate near the site in Savar yesterday. Photo: Rashed Shumon

Rescuers have pulled out seven bodies from the debris of Rana Plaza in Savar since the beginning of the rescue operation’s second phase using heavy lifting gears.
They have found 384 bodies and at least 2,437 survivors in the debris till last night, ISPR and other sources say. It could not be known how many people, dead or alive, are still trapped in the collapsed building.
Rana Plaza, the nine-storey building housing half a dozen readymade garment factories, caved in on Wednesday after owners forced several thousand workers to come to work despite cracks had developed on some pillars.
Yesterday, the site of deadliest building collapse in the country’s history was off limits to general people with hundreds of relatives of workers waiting outside the cordon for updates.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the area around 9:30pm and spent nearly 15 minutes with some survivors at Enam Medical College and Hospital.
Meanwhile, fire fighters, members of armed forces and volunteers continued efforts to locate whether anyone is still alive inside the rubble.
While working at the southern corner of the building, rescuers heard a response from below around 10:55pm as they shouted, “Anybody in there?” Nearly 100 people present at the site claimed this.
However, the army and fire service personnel immediately drove everybody else away and declared around 11:10pm that it was nothing.
After the second phase began around 11:30pm on Sunday, hydraulic cranes started removing pillars and concrete slabs from backside of the building. One of the cranes was also seen removing debris from the front.
Shahinul Islam, director of Inter Services Public Relations Directorate (ISPR), told reporters in the afternoon, “This operation will continue till a single survivor is found. The bodies will also be pulled out.”
He added they had removed 90 tonnes of concrete slabs starting from the top of the debris.
The rescuers dropped a special sensor, taken from NSI, and a camera inside the ruins through a tunnel bored on the wall, to spot if there was anyone trapped, the ISPR director said.
Asked how long this phase would continue, Shahinul said it was not possible to give an exact time frame, but they would try to complete it as soon as possible. There are sufficient manpower and machinery to carry out the second phase of the mission.
According to some rescuers, the amount of debris is around 6,500 tonnes and it will take 10 to 15 days to remove those.
Yesterday, smoke was coming out of the building till afternoon. The ISPR director said, “Debris, cloths, cottons, cartons remain scattered on the floors and we could not supply water everywhere inside the floors.”
Meanwhile, agitated relatives and locals staged a demonstration yesterday morning and evening demanding bodies.
At least 29 unidentified bodies were handed over to Anjuman Mofidul Islam, a charitable organisation, for burial after collecting DNA samples.
The district administration says 30 unidentified bodies at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and another 22 at Mitford Hospital. If nobody identifies them by tomorrow 10:00am, they will be handed over to Anjuman.
POPE FOR SAVAR
Pope Francis has called for prayers for the victims of the Savar tragedy, reports Vatican Radio, the official broadcasting service of the Vatican.
“Join me in praying for the victims of the tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that God will grant comfort and strength to their families,” said Pope in a Tweet sent out on Saturday morning.