Death toll 212 in building collapse near Dhaka

The death toll in Thursday morning’s eight-storied  building collapse in Savar, near Dhaka rose to 212 according to the latest information gathered from the site of the ghastly scene. Rescue workers have been quoted to have said that they are still hearing screams of people trapped inside debris of the buildings as hundreds still remain unaccounted for.Rescuers say the death counts in the disaster may well rise further as salvage operations are set to run through Wednesday night.
Zahidur Rahman, Director, Public Relations of the Enam Medical College and Hospital, where the bodies and the injured were taken, told journalists they had received 91 bodies until 4:30pm.
Rescue workers said that at least 10 more bodies were taken to Savar Upazila Health Complex, Savar Labaid and Savar Model Police Station. Another died on the way to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.
In Savar said the bodies have been kept wrapped in plastic sheets in the mortuary. Relatives have taken away many bodies.
Local people have joined Fire Brigade and Civil Defence, Army, Red Crescent, police, RAB in the rescue efforts.
They have been grappling to maintain order in the hospital as hundreds of people including relatives of those missing gathered there.
Abul Khair, a firefighter, said they had been asked to continue their search as many more are feared trapped under the rubble.
He said several holes had been dug around the debris to reach the people trapped and they had tried to provide them with oxygen and water.
Flashlights have been installed but rescuers have complained of the presence of too many people at the scene.
The Rana Plaza that housed four garments, a bank, and commercial shops including electronics, computer, cosmetics and clothes, collapsed in the morning hour after garment workers were ‘forced’ to join work.
Since the condition of many of those being treated in local hospitals and clinics is critical, doctors say the death toll could further rise.
Bodies and the wounded were retrieved of the heaps of flattened floors with makeshift slides made from cloth.
Fire Brigade and Civil Defence’s Director General Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan said it would take three days to clear the debris.
It is not clear how many people were inside the building when it grounded, but estimates suggest around 5,000 workers work in the four garment factories alone.
Correspondents say the owner Mohammad Sohel Rana was warned on Tuesday to shut the building as cracks appeared. But Rana who is the Convenor of the local Jubo League, youth front of ruling Awami League, did not pay heed.
Survivors said they were hesitant to join work in the building Wednesday.
Sumi Akhter, 25, who was undergoing treatment at Enam hospital for her injuries, said she came at 8am. “I did not want to enter the building. But management told us to join.”
“Hour later, it collapsed,” she recalled.
The Bangladesh Garment Exporters’ and Manufacturers’ Association (BGMEA) blamed the building owner and sought ‘capital punishment’.
President-elect Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition leader Khaleda Zia mourned the deaths and expressed their condolences to the victims’ families.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has announced Tk 40 million in aid for the victims.
Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali has directed Tk 20,000 in cash for each of the families of the deceased and Tk 3,000 for the injured.
The Prime Minister has ordered the local administration to carry out the rescue operation on a war footing.
The main opposition-led alliance lifted their shutdown in Dhaka three and a half hours before schedule. The government has declared a national mourning on Thursday.
The heads of European Union missions in Dhaka, US Ambassador and Transparency International of Bangladesh (TIB) expressed their condolences at the loss of lives.
The TIB demanded ‘judicial probe’ into the incident.
Bangladesh is the world’s second-leading garment exporter behind China, but the industry has been fraught with safety concerns, angry protests over poor wages and labour-rights issues.
Bang and panic
Savar Model Police Station OC Asaduzzaman said the rear of the building suddenly started to collapse at around 8:30am. Within a short time, the whole structure, except the main pillar and parts of the front wall, caved in triggering an all-round panic.
Four army teams have joined the police, RAB, firefighters and the locals in expediting the rescue work.
Traffic on the Dhaka-Aricha Highway was disrupted after the building collapse as thousands of people came out to join the rescue.
OC Asaduzzaman said four garments factories and a bank branch located in the complex were closed on Tuesday after the building’s wall showed cracks. However, some workers returned to factories on Wednesday before the collapse.
A nearby stall owner Sujon Mia told the building collapsed suddenly with a loud sound.
The ground and first floors of the Plaza had shops selling electronic goods, computers, perfumes and garments, and also had a branch of the BRAC Bank.
On the second floor was New Wave Bottoms Limited, Phantom Apparels Ltd on the third floor, Phantom Tack Ltd on the fourth floor and Ethar Textile Ltd on the fifth.
Engineer Abdur Razzak had said the building needed to be examined by structural experts from BUET for risk assessment.
He had also forewarned about a possible collapse.
Building collapses are not infrequent in Bangladesh, specially in Dhaka, where construction laws are seldom enforced.
In one of the worst such incidents, at least 70 people were killed when a garment factory had collapsed outside Dhaka in 2005.
At least 25 died and 25 others were injured when another high-rise building owned by a government official had collapsed on tin-roof shanties in June 2010.

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