Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013

Survived at a price

Their limbs amputated, future blurred out

Shapla stared at her left hand in disbelief. Her arm below the elbow was gone. Everything looked blurry, including her future.
“I have destroyed my only son’s future,” the 22-year-old moaned in fear of the gloomy days ahead, as she thought of the future looking at her amputated hand.
As she lay on a bed at the Orthopaedic Hospital, the hapless garment worker blamed herself for not heeding her husband and neighbours’ advice not to go to work on Wednesday.
“The purpose of my whole life was only to work and save enough money to provide a good education for my son.”
Shapla and her husband, Mehedi Hasan, were both machine operators on the second floor of the nine-storey Rana Plaza. They were separated when the building started to collapse.
“I ran near the stairs to get out of the building, and a pillar fell on me,” she told The Daily Star. Her left hand was crushed and pinned under the pillar as she lay there bleeding with a big fracture in her skull.
She was taken to the Orthopaedic Hospital, after being rescued one and a half hours after the incident.
Shapla regained consciousness on Thursday afternoon and looked for her son, Morsalin, 6, whom she had left with her father in Nawabganj, Dinajpur. She was not aware that her husband was still missing.
Shapla’s father Mohsin Ali said, “Please do something, at least for this child,” as he is not well-off enough to ensure Morsalin’s future.
Stories of the other victims, most of them poor and garment workers, are no different.
Sujan Roy, a 22-year-old packaging worker from the same floor, could not imagine how his family of five would survive.
Doctors at the Orthopaedic Hospital are set to amputate his gangrene afflicted left leg, fractured by a fallen pillar, within a day or two. He was found buried under rubble and was rescued five hours after the collapse.
Having been the only source of income for his family, Sujan is worried about educating his sisters — students of Class IV and Class II at Mithapukur, Rangpur.
“Since I could not manage to study after class VII, I tried my best to ensure their [his sisters] education, sending home Tk 5,000 from my Tk 8,000 salary,” he said.
With no land or property and his father Saju Roy, a farmer, who remained ill most of the time, the youth appealed for an alternative job to support his family.
Lovely Akhter, 25, worked on the same floor and had her left hand crushed under a wall from the collapse.
She was unable to visit her two daughters for the last eight months due to financial constraints. Lovely was distraught and didn’t know how to support her children and her ailing husband — a rickshaw-puller who stayed home since his appendectomy five-six years ago.
Possibly no other victim was traumatised as much as Pakhi Begum, 25, a machine operator’s helper on the fifth floor. She was pinned down, while conscious the whole time, by a pillar which crushed both her legs.
“Lying there amid blood in the pitch dark, I could only think about my two daughters because I saw death so closely. Two others were lying dead beside me,” she said, now at Enam Hospital.
She shouted for help as she saw light coming through a hole Thursday morning. Rescuers tried, but failed to free her legs.
She pleaded them to cut her legs off. “I told them I’d rather live as a beggar to support my daughters than die there.” The rescuers complied with her request using machetes.
Pakhi’s husband Jahangir Alam, a worker at another garment factory in Savar, did not visit her since the collapse and she knows he does not care much about the daughters.