Friday 10 July 2020.Time-
(Dhaka)
ফন্ট ডাউনলোড

Death toll rises to 397

Dhaka, 30 April, Abnews: The rescuers began second phase of the salvage operation early Monday giving up all hopes pulling alive any survivors and kept on retrieving more and more dead bodies from under tones of rubbles of Rana Plaza that collapsed on Wednesday.

On the sixth day of the operation on Tuesday morning, the confirmed death   toll rose to 397 as few more bodies recovered while more than 2500 people were rescued alive from the ravaged building. But still more than 1000 people remained missing making their relatives in agonizing wait for news on their fate. But the rescuers are helpless to let them know their fate as they are now trying salvage the decaying corpses of the victims giving up hopes of rescuing anyone alive from the rubbles amid stench of death all around the Rana Plaza. Of the 2500 rescued, most were released after treatment, but some 586   people were undergoing treatment in different hospitals and groaning with pains as many of those had already lost their limbs and facing a grim future ahead of them. The rescue team identified some 352 bodies and handed those over to their families and relatives. Death toll might go up substantially as the missing people are feared to have died in the tragedy that struck the Rana Plaza on Wednesday morning just half an hour after they were coerced into entering the risky building and it collapsed trapping them under tones of rubbles. Confirming the death toll Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) sources said two bodies were recovered from rubble around 9:00pm Monday while six decomposed bodies till 8:45 am Tuesday. Nearly 111 hours after collapse of Rana Plaza at Savar, the rescuers started removing chunk of floor debris with heavy equipment as part of the second phase of rescue operation. ‘The second phase of rescue operation has started with two hydraulic cranes,’ ISPR director M Shahinul Islam told journalists.

The second phase of operation began with removing huge floor chunk with the cranes brought from Jatrabari Mayor Hanif Flyover site. Earlier the rescuers on Sunday deferred for hours their second phase salvage campaigns to remove rubbles of eight-storey building using heavy cranes and dozers as they were trying to retrieve alive manually the last few survivors. ‘The second phase of the salvage campaign was halted for hours as it could endanger the last few survivors under tones of rubbles . . . we will go for mechanical methods as soon as the last (manual) efforts to retrieve them are exhausted,’ a fire service official told newsmen at the scene. His comments came as a rescue worker in a voice choked with emotion described the newsmen how a young girl appealed to him for her retrieval saying ‘she was repeatedly telling me, don’t leave me brother’. Another rescued woman said she could not save a young boy namely Bakul who ’embraced her inside the debris saying please, please save my life . . . I could not rescue him as he died’. Officials at the site said 385 bodies were retrieved and 2443 were rescued alive following the deadliest ever building collapse five days ago. But still hundreds of people remained missing as the number of missing people kept on increasing with more and more relatives are showing photos of their relatives remained missing since the building crumbled down on Wednesday with unspecified number of people inside. The number of missing people rose to more than 1000.

Quoting a rescue worker, a journalist at the scene, however, said works were underway to rescue four but feared three of them might not be found alive now. The authorities earlier Sunday said they were set to launch the second phase of the salvage campaigns as they found little signs or pulses of life under concrete rubble or in between sandwiched floors of Rana Plaza. ‘I would like to tell you, we are getting little signs of life under the debris . . . even if some people are alive they are not responding,’ commander of the salvage campaign Major General Hassan Suhrawardy told newsmen near the collapse site at suburban Savar. Emerging from a coordination meeting of the rescue agencies, he said rescuers were asked to come out from inside the debris shortly as exhausting their efforts to rescue alive the last nine people who were found alive under the concrete rubble of illegally built Rana Plaza. ‘We have now unanimously decided to enter into the second phase of the salvage campaign using heavy equipment like cranes (to remove the rubbles) instead of manual efforts (to rescue survivors),’ Suhrawady told the briefing flanked by chiefs of the fire service and other rescue agencies. He, however, hastened to add that rescuers would now enter into the rubbles on crane boxes creating boreholes from the top and pull out the survivors as it appeared impossible to penetrate the concrete ruins manually using rod cutters and hand saws. ‘But rescuers will select calculated sites for boreholes cautiously and enter inside so the survivors or their own lives are not endangered, the survivors can be rescued safely and the bodies were not damaged further,’ said Suhrawady, who commands the army’s Savar-based 9th division. The briefing came as rescuers overnight rescued five people alive and said chances of getting more survivors nearly faded out fearing they might have died by now or lost consciousness making it difficult to locate them in between sandwiched floors of the collapsed structure. Witnesses said army troops and fire fighters joined by law enforcement agencies were setting up red flags around the collapsed structure ahead of mobilising cranes and dozers at the site to remove the debris. ‘We are going to launch the second phase any moment now,’ an army spokesman told newsmen at the site in the evening. A senior fire brigade official told newsmen at the scene the time limit for extending the manual rescue operations were extended as survivors were found ‘miraculously’ alive even after expiry of 72 hours on Saturday, a time frame considered maximum for survival under such debris. In a related development elite crime buster Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Sunday arrested fugitive owner of Rana Plaza Sohel Rana from Benapole frontiers five days after the eight-storey structure collapsed as he was visibly fleeing the country to evade justice. ‘RAB arrested him from Benapole frontiers as he tried to flee the country,’ state minister for local government Jahangir Kabir Nanak told newsmen in front of the collapse site. Television showed A RAB helicopter landing at the Air Force Airport base in Dhaka carrying Rana from western Jessore along with an accomplice over an hour of his arrest while a spokesman of the elite force Wing Commander Habibur Rahman details his arrest at a press conference on Sunday.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered arrest of Rana and the owners of the garments factories housed in the structure as they forced several thousand workers join the production line even after cracks were reported and warnings were issued about their exposure to fatal collapse of the building. Owners of three garment units and two engineers responsible for buildings safety were arrested and remanded in police custody on Saturday on court orders. The High Court on Sunday demanded explanations from concerned government departments to explain what legal steps were taken against businesses and people concerned after three past major factory disasters like Tazreen Fashion fire and Spectrum building collapse. In another development in line with a High Court directive, Bangladesh Bank warned bank bosses of stern legal action if they provide loans to garment factories which did not complied with safety standards. The steps were taken as angry workers and rights groups continued street protests calling the Savar collapse an incident of ‘mass murder’ and complied such accidents repeated as the people escaped justice after every previous incidents of disaster. The Wednesday’s collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world behind China. The country witnessed last major building collapse in 2005 when over 70 people were killed after a multi storied garment factory collapsed in the same area, an incident followed by the collapse of a five-storey building at Tejgaon’s Begumbari area in 2010 claiming 25 lives. But the Rana Plaza collapsed five months after a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka that killed 125 people and another incident at a factory in January in which seven people died, compounding concerns about workers safety in Bangladesh.

The South Asian nation relies on readymade garments for 80 percent of its exports while it employs about 3.6 million people, most of them women, some of whom earning as low as US $38 a month.

Abn/Tues-02/National/Desk/Mustafiz/Majumder/Ripa

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