Voices of survivors weakening as 29 more pulled out of rubble in Bangladesh

Published: April 27, 2013

JULHAS ALAM and FARID HOSSAIN
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Five people were arrested here Saturday in connection with the collapse of a shoddily constructed building that killed at least 348 people, as rescue workers admitted that voices of survivors are getting weaker after four days of being pinned under the increasingly unstable rubble. AFP/Getty Images

SAVAR, Bangladesh —Five people were arrested here Saturday in connection with the collapse of a shoddily constructed building that killed at least 348 people, as rescue workers admitted that voices of survivors are getting weaker after four days of being pinned under the increasingly unstable rubble.

Still, in a boost for the rescuers, 29 survivors were pulled out Saturday, said army spokesman Shahinul Islam.

Most of the victims were crushed by massive blocks of concrete and mortar falling on them when the eight-storey structure came down Wednesday morning — a time many of the garment factories in the building were packed with workers.

It was the worst tragedy to hit Bangladesh’s massive garment industry and focused attention on the poor working conditions of the employees who toil for $38 a month to produce clothing for top international brands.

Among those arrested were two owners of a garment factory, who a Dhaka court ruled can be questioned by police for 12 days without charges being filed.

Also detained are two government engineers and the wife of the building owner, who is on the run, in an attempt to force him to surrender.
Violent public protests continued sporadically in Dhaka and spread to the southeastern city of Chittagong where several vehicles were set on fire.

GROUND FLOOR REACHED

Working round-the-clock since Wednesday through heat and a thunderstorm, rescuers on Saturday finally reached the ground floor from the top of the mountainous rubble through 25 narrow holes they have drilled, said Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed Khan, the head of the fire services.

“We are still getting response from survivors though they are becoming weaker slowly,” he said, adding that rescue workers were now able to see cars that were parked at the ground level.

“The building is very vulnerable. Any time the floors could collapse. We are performing an impossible task, but we are glad that we are able to rescue so many survivors.”

Khan said the operations will continue overnight as chances fade of people surviving a fifth day in the heat with possibly grievous injuries.

The building site was a hive of frenzied activity all day with soldiers, police and medical workers in lab coats working non-stop.

Rescuers passed bottles of water and small cylinders of oxygen up a ladder leaning against the side of the building to be given to possible survivors inside.

They used bare hands and shovels, passing chunks of brick and concrete down a human chain away from the collapsed structure.

On the ground, mixed in the debris were several pairs of pink cotton pants, a mud-covered navy blue sock and a pile of green uncut fabric.

WORKERS’ FAMILIES FRANTIC

Nearby, Abul Basar wept as he awaited news of his wife, who worked in one of the garment factories.

“My son says that his mother will come back some day. She must return! “ Basar cried.

Every once in a while, a badly decomposed body would be brought out, covered in cloth and plastic, to a spot where ambulances were parked.

Workers furiously sprayed air-fresheners on the bodies to cover the stench, leaving the air thick with the smell of death and cheap perfume.

The bodies were kept at a makeshift morgue at the nearby Adharchandra High School before being handed over to families. Many people milled around at the school, waving photos of their missing loved ones.

Junior local government minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak put the death toll at 348.

Military spokesman Shahinul Islam said 2,429 survivors were accounted for, including 29 who were pulled out Saturday.

TOP FLOORS ILLEGALLY CONSTRUCTED

Junior Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku said police had arrested Bazlus Samad, managing director of New Wave Apparels Ltd., and Mahmudur Rahman Tapash, the company chairman.

Police also detained the wife of Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, for questioning, Tuku said.

The top three floors of the eight-storey building were illegally constructed.

Authorities are still searching for Rana, a local politician, who hasn’t been seen publicly since the building collapsed. Negligence cases have been filed against him.

Police in Bangladesh often detain relatives of missing suspects as a way to pressure them to surrender.

Dhaka police superintendent Habibur Rahman said Rana was a local leader of ruling Awami League’s youth front. His arrest, and that of the factory owners, was ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Awami League leader.

Two engineers working for the Savar municipality, Imtemam Hossain and Alam Ali, were also detained by police for questioning.

Police did not say what role the engineers played in approving the design of the building, but it was clear that the arrests amounted to a widening crackdown. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

A garment manufacturers’ group said the factories in the building employed 3,122 workers, but it was not clear how many were inside it when it collapsed.

EVACUATION ORDER IGNORED

Police say they ordered an evacuation of the building Tuesday, after cracks in Rana Plaza were found, but the factories ignored the order and were operating when it collapsed the next day.

Video before the collapse shows cracks in walls, with apparent attempts at repair. It also shows columns missing chunks of concrete and police talking to building operators.

Officials said soon after the collapse that numerous construction regulations had been violated.

The disaster is the worst ever for the country’s booming and powerful garment industry, surpassing a fire five months ago that killed 112 people and brought widespread pledges to improve worker-safety standards.

Since then, very little has changed in Bangladesh, where low wages have made it a magnet for numerous global brands.

Bangladesh’s garment industry was the third largest in the world in 2011, after China and Italy, having grown rapidly in the past decade. The country’s minimum wage is the equivalent of about $38 a month.

Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, pants and other garments a year.

The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for several major North American and European retailers.

Britain’s Primark acknowledged it was using a factory in Rana Plaza, but many other retailers distanced themselves from the disaster, saying they were not involved with the factories at the time of the collapse or had not recently ordered garments from them.

Wal-Mart said none of its clothing had been authorized to be made in the facility, but it is investigating whether there was any unauthorized production.

 


Tags: , , , , , ,





Featured

Royal Wedding

Aga Khan’s eldest son Prince Rahim and his wife Kendra Salwa Spears expecting their first child

VANCOUVER DESI The Aga Khan’s eldest son Prince Rahim and his wife Princess Salwa (Kendra Salwa Spears) are expecting their first child, the spiritual leader…
Continue Reading »

CIVIC ELECTIONS

Surrey mayoral candidates share city visions at first meeting

AMY REID VANCOUVER DESI SURREY — Surrey mayoral candidates met for the city’s first all-candidates meeting Thursday night at SFU. Six of the seven candidates…
Continue Reading »

OTTAWA

Surrey MP Nina Grewal’s account of the shootout in Ottawa

NINA GREWAL SPECIAL TO IANS  When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking at about 9.30 a.m. Wednesday in a caucus room of parliament, we…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

CIVIC ELECTIONS

Surrey mayoral candidates share city visions at first meeting

AMY REID VANCOUVER DESI SURREY — Surrey mayoral candidates met for the city’s first all-candidates meeting Thursday night at SFU. Six of the seven candidates…
Continue Reading »

OTTAWA

Surrey MP Nina Grewal’s account of the shootout in Ottawa

NINA GREWAL SPECIAL TO IANS  When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking at about 9.30 a.m. Wednesday in a caucus room of parliament, we…
Continue Reading »

Parliament hill

Editorial Exchange: Rational responses needed

NEIL GODBOUT PRINCE GEORGE CITIZEN, THE CANADIAN PRESS Canada’s innocence should have ended in 1970 with the FLQ crisis but it didn’t. It should have been…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

student dead

Two dead, including gunman, in school shooting north of Seattle

DOUG ESSER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MARYSVILLE, Wash. — A student opened fire in a high school cafeteria north of Seattle on Friday, killing at least…
Continue Reading »

attack on Parliament Hill

Ottawa shooter kicked out of Burnaby mosque two years ago

Zehaf-Bibeau was asked to leave the mosque, because he had “gotten a hold of keys and stuff from the mosque, and when he got out…
Continue Reading »

labour laws violation

U.S. company penalized for mistreatment of Indian employees working 122 hours in a week

MICHAEL LIEDTKE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SAN FRANCISCO – A Silicon Valley company is paying more than $43,000 in back wages and penalties after labour regulators…
Continue Reading »

DESI-SOCCER

Surrey soccer captain played the U-18 national club championship using only one foot

KYLE BENNING SURREY NOW SOUTH SURREY – Kyle Sohi’s perseverance and performance in the 2014 Sport Chek National Club Championships U-18 Cup Final might go…
Continue Reading »

SURREY-FIELD HOCKEY

Barinder Rasode announces plan to develop field hockey pitch in Surrey

Third field at Tamanawis Park would cost approximately $3 million KYLE BENNING SURREY NOW NEWTON – Barinder Rasode and the One Surrey team were at…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Stan Lee-Bollywood

Stan Lee plans Bollywood film on his first Indian superhero

VANCOUVER DESI Stan Lee, the legendary ‘Spiderman’ creator, is reportedly planning his Bollywood entry with a film on his Indian superhero character ‘Chakra: the Invincible’….
Continue Reading »

KANGANA RANAUT

Even my parents think I am weird, says Bollywood ‘Queen’ Kangana Ranaut

HINDUSTAN TIMES Kangana Ranaut has always made unconventional choices, be it her movies or the way she dresses. And the actor says she’s happy the…
Continue Reading »

Happy New Year-Bollywood

Happy New Year: Mandatory ‘formula’ and all those old Bollywood references

HINDUSTAN TIMES Film: Happy New Year Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood, Vivaan Shah, Jackie Shroff Director: Farah Khan…
Continue Reading »