Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013

DEATH TOLL 558

With agony, they wait for bodies

Anjana cries with the photo of her missing mother Nasima, a Rana Plaza victim. She has been waiting at Adhar Chandra High School playground in Savar since April 24 when the building collapsed. She has searched for her mother in all the hospitals and morgues in vain. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq

Anjana cries with the photo of her missing mother Nasima, a Rana Plaza victim. She has been waiting at Adhar Chandra High School playground in Savar since April 24 when the building collapsed. She has searched for her mother in all the hospitals and morgues in vain. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq

The agonising wait at Adhar Chandra High School in Savar seems endless to Anwar Zahid. He knows his wife is dead by now but he can at least have the body to bury by himself.
“No matter how decomposed her body is, I shall recognise Nasrin,” said Zahid, a diploma engineer and an operator of an effluent treatment plant at a nearby industry.
Every time a body was recovered from the mangled wreckage of nine-storey Rana Plaza a kilometer away and brought there yesterday, Zahid rushed to check if it was of Nasrin Anwar, 22, mother of his child.
For the last 12 days since the deadliest industrial disaster in the country, hundreds of men, women and children have been waiting at the school ground to see their loved ones dead or alive.
At night, some of them sleep in the open, some in small tents while some others take shelter at the residences of their relatives who fell victim to the building collapse. Local volunteers are providing them with three meals and potable water every day.
“I am looking for the body of my daughter,” someone would say carrying a picture of a young woman. “I am looking for my son’s,” someone else would rush in to add.
At times, someone in the crowd would begin wailing, “Oh Allah where are you, please do justice.”
Most of the dead on the fourth floor and above have been recovered and so now remains those who worked on the second and third floors at New Wave Apparels and Phantom Apparels.
An army personnel working in the rescue at the collapsed Rana Plaza, where a strong stench of decomposing human flesh lingers in the air, said they were yet to break into the second and third floors of the building that housed five garment factories.
“You can rest assured that many more decomposed bodies are yet to be recovered from those floors; the job of removing the huge concrete is very tedious and time consuming,” he said.
In the long corridor of the school’s main building, some 30 body bags were laid down. The bodies were so decomposed that they remained unidentified and unclaimed.
However, a few bodies were idenfied; not by appearance but by some other ways.
Shahinoor’s body was pulled out of the rubble at 12:00noon. Rescuers found a mobile phone along with it, and having pulled out the sim card and inserted it into another cellphone, they called the last number she had dialed. The person from the other side immediately identified the victim as Shahinoor from Shonatola, Bogra.
Some other dead bodies were found with identity cards.
As days are passing by, rescuers fear that bodies still trapped in the rubble will go beyond recognition. And the painstaking recovery operation from thousands of tons of concrete mess may become much lengthier than expected.