Bangladesh building collapse toll exceeds 300
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Last Updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013, 00:17
  
Savar: The death toll in the worst building collapse in Bangladesh on Friday rose to at least 307, as authorities raced against time to look for survivors under tonnes of debris even as a total of 2,375 people were rescued alive.

An eight-storey commercial building on the outskirts of Bangladeshi capital, housing five garment factories, collapsed on Wednesday, trapping inside a huge number of people.

"Our prime target is to rescue the rest of survivors alive as we are running against time," a military spokesman told an official press briefing near the collapse scene, two days after the structure caved in trapping inside unidentified number of people believed to be several thousand.

Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) director Shaheenul Islam told the briefing that toll so far stood at 307 while 2,375 people were rescued from under tonnes of concrete rubbles of the Rana Plaza as the army-led salvage campaign was underway.

The briefing came as rescuers found some 50 people alive at the most vulnerable backside of the collapsed structure where they penetrated with manual drill machines and rod cutters and retrieved 20 of them in critical conditions.

A fire service official said they located a new group of survivers and oxygen was being provided under the debris to help them stay alive until they could be rescued.

Ambulances kept outside carried them quickly to different facilities including a nearby combined military hospital as Red Crescent and ordinary volunteers joined hands with rescuers in retrieving them out.

But anxious crowds around the debris turned impatient as concerns were rising after they lost cell phone links with their trapped relatives and friends under the ruins and accused the rescuers of lack of promptness in getting to the still alive but trapped people.

However, the army spokesman said the situation forced "highly trained" rescuers to penetrate inside very cautiously to retrieve them alive as "slightest lack of this cautiousness could kill the survivors".

"You can see heavy cranes and bulldozers here to quickly remove the concrete debris but we cant use them at the moment as our prime objective is to retrieve the people alive first," he said.

Commander of the salvage campaign, Major General Hassan Sarwardy, earlier said rescuers would look for survivors for one more day estimating they could survive as high as 72 hours under the debris and then might go for a massive campaign to remove debris using heavy equipment.

A fire service official said two babies were born under the debris as their pregnant mothers were trapped under the ruins but they were rescued alive along with their newborn babies.

An official of the makeshift police control room near the scene said 286 retrieved bodies were handed over to their families while they prepared a list of 595 people whose relatives said they were still missing.

Most of the victims of the country's worst ever collapse were garments workers as the building housed five garment units alongside 300 shops and branch of a private bank.

Meanwhile, thousands of garment factory workers in different parts of the capital took to the streets today to protest the deaths in Savar and vandalised several vehicles including buses and cars at Shewrapara.

They chanted slogans demanding stern punishment to the owners of Rana Plaza and the factories, who went into hiding after the structure caved in two days back after cracks were reported in the building, which officials said was built illegally defying safety rules.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has promised to expose to justice the fugitive owners of the building and the five garment factories housed there in a parliamentary statement yesterday.

"Our facilities are filed with wounded patients... We are admitting the severely injured ones and offered first aide to the less serious survivors," a spokesman of private Enam Hospital told reporters adding that they were now faced with live saving drugs and philanthropic people and orgabnisations extended hands for their treatment.

But anxious crowds around the debris turned violent for sometime as concerns were rising after they lost cell phone links with their trapped relatives and friends under the ruins about their fate and accused the rescuers of lack of promptness in rescuing the still alive trapped people.

Police had to use tear gas and batons to disperse the crowds to keep smooth the salvage campaign.

But the army spokesman said the situation forced "highly trained" rescuers to penetrate inside very cautiously to retrieve them alive as "slightest lack of this cautiousness could kill the survivors".

"You can see heavy cranes and bulldozers here to quickly remove the concrete debris but we can’t use them at the moment as our prime objective is to retrieve the people alive first," he said.

Commander of the salvage campaign army's Major General Hassan Sarwardy earlier said rescuers would look for survivors for one more day estimating they could survive as high as 72 hours under the debris and then might go for a massive campaign to remove concrete ruins using the heavy equipment.

A fire service official said a baby was born under the debris as his pregnant mother was trapped under the ruins but they were rescued alive were being treated at a hospital in Dhaka.

An official of the makeshift police control room near the scene said 286 retrieved bodies were handed over to their families while they prepared a list of still 595 people whose relatives said they were still missing.

Most of the victims of the country's worst ever collapse were garments workers while the building housed five garment units alongside 300 shops and branch of a private bank.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) today announced closure all factories for tomorrow and Sunday to mobilise efforts for treatment of wounded victims and facilitate the rescue operation successfully.

People across the country offered special prayers for the victims. The country witnessed the last major building collapse in 2005 when over 70 people were killed after a multi storied garment factory collapsed in the same area.

But the Rana Plaza collapsed five months after a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka that killed 111 people.

"This incident (in Savar) is devastating for us as we have not recovered from the shock of Tazreen fire yet," said Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, who visited the site today.

North American and European chains, including British retailer Primark and Canada's Loblaw, said they were supplied by factories in the RanaPlaza building.

PTI


First Published: Friday, April 26, 2013, 11:35


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