At least 108 people were killed and over 600 injured in Savar on the outskirts of the capital Wednesday morning when a nine-storey building housing five garment factories collapsed.
With few hundred more believed to be trapped inside, rescuers fear the death toll may rise significantly.
Most of the victims who have been rescued from under the debris in the afternoon are dead, reported our correspondents from the spot.
“The building might have collapsed due to faulty construction,” said Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir.
The minister visited the spot around 1:40pm, nearly five-hour after the building collapsed.
He also said that the government would bring the culprits to justice after probing the incident.
Muhiuddin also expressed sympathy to the family members of the victims and assured them of taking all responsibilities of their treatment.
There are at least 57 bodies at Enam Medical College and Hospital in Savar where the injured and dead victims were rushed, our correspondent reported quoting the chief medical officer of the hospital.
Fire fighters and army personnel joined police and volunteers to rescue those trapped under the debris.
Following the collapse, the BNP-led 18-party alliance at first relaxed their hartal in Savar and eventually called off their 36-hour countrywide shutdown nearly two-hour before its ending.
The latest factory disaster came eight years after the collapse of Spectrum Garments in Baipail in Savar that left 64 workers dead.
Several workers, who escaped unhurt and rescued later, told the media that the owners of their garment factories forced them to go back to work Wednesday morning.
The workers were hesitating to rejoin work in the morning after they were evacuated on Tuesday following several cracks in the building.
The building, “Rana Plaza” situated near Savar Bus Stand, collapsed around 8:45am. It had developed several cracks on Tuesday.
The building housed a market, five garment factories and a branch of Brac Bank.
The traffic movement on Dhaka-Aricha highway has remained suspended since the morning following the building collapse.
So far, nearly 150 people were pulled out of the rubble alive.
Cries for help echoed from under the rubble of the shattered building, Sohel Rana, a local who rescued several people breaking open a backside window, told The Daily Star.
“We could not yet specify the number of casualties as the rescue operation continues,” Tahmina (full name could not be known immediately), the duty officer and an assistant sub-inspector of Savar Police Station, told The Daily Star over phone immediately after the incident.
It was reported that only the first floor of the building remained intact.
Families and relatives of the victims, who remain missing, gathered in front of the shattered building in tears and most of them were seen wailing fearing the ominous fate of their near and dear ones.
The adjoining atmosphere of the building became heavy and depressive with the cries of injured.
The victims who remain trapped inside the building are officering prayers to Almighty Allah, in apprehension that this day might be last day for them.
The sounds of zikir (begin religious chants) are also coming out from the devastated building.
The victims who are pinned under debris and choked with cement dust were heard crying for water, said media reports.
SPECTRUM GARMENTS TRAGEDY
On the night of April 11 in 2005, at least 64 workers were killed when the nine-storey building caved in.
The building was reportedly structurally unsound, and not properly designed and was erected on a flood-prone marshland without permission from the authorities.
PRESIDENT-ELECT, PM, OPPOSITION CHIEF CONDOLE DEATHS
President-elect Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition chief Khaleda Zia in separate messages expressed deep shock and condolences at the deaths.
CLAIM OF WORKERS
Several workers of the garment factories claimed that the owners of their factories compelled them to rejoin work when they gathered in front of the building in the morning.
On Tuesday, several cracks had developed on the building and all the staff of the factories were evacuated.
Several garment workers were also injured while all of them were trying to rush out from the building.