Extremely poor construction materials and violation of construction rules contributed to the collapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza in Savar on April 24, revealed a government probe body yesterday.
The crash was one of the largest industrial building collapses in the world that claimed 1,127 lives and maimed over 2,000 others.
The probe body, formed on April 25 by the home ministry to investigate the reasons behind the collapse, revealed its findings to reporters at the home ministry after handing the report over to Home Secretary CQK Mustak Ahmed.
The investigation body recommended building owner Sohel Rana, his aides, and the authorities of the garment factories be tried under section-304 and 34 (manslaughter) of the penal code. A court could sentence them to life imprisonment if found guilty.
Regarding substandard materials, the head of the probe body, Mainuddin Ahmed, said, "The ratio of cement and sand in the mixture was not proper and extremely low quality iron rods and cement were used."
Mainuddin, an additional home secretary, said the local municipality authorities first gave permission for a six-storey building, and later gave permission for another four floors on top of that.
The municipality did not even follow the Bangladesh National Building Code while issuing the permissions to Rana Plaza.
Sohel Rana, owner of Rana Plaza, erected the building for commercial purposes and later built more floors to house garment factories, violating the building construction code, and factory and fire safety rules, the additional secretary said.
"Rana housed five garment factories on the upper floors of the building where factory owners installed generators and machines weighing several thousand tonnes, which was a gross violation of the rules," Mainuddin told The Daily Star.
He said the machines and the generators created vibration, which also contributed to the building collapse.
Regarding the land on which the building was built, the report said a portion of the large building stood on a piece of land which had been a water body before and had been filled with dirt.
The report said the collapse was a “pancake collapse” in nature, which is deadly as floors fall on each other making it look like a pile of pancakes.
The probe body made 12 recommendations, including three that should be implemented immediately, said member secretary of the probe body Sayeed Mahmood Belal Haidar, who is also deputy secretary in the home ministry.
The report urged the government to take immediate steps for the trial of land and factory owners and their aides. It recommended providing elderly parents and orphaned children of Rana Plaza victims with aid immediately.
It also suggested that the government pay for and arranges treatment of the injured and, if required, have them sent abroad for better treatment.
It also suggested that victims who had lost limbs should be provided with prosthetic limbs.
It asked the government to carry out periodical inspections of factory buildings to assess vulnerability.
The government could provide certificates on how long a building could be used and take subsequent steps to force building owners to follow government instructions regarding a demolition of structures.
It recommended the formation of trade unions, excluding people who are not workers and installation of CCTV cameras to monitor factories round the clock to avert incidents of vandalism and attacks.
The probe body suggested forming a "National Disaster Response Force" equipped with proper equipment and creation of a separate wing in the fire service department to conduct rescue operations.
It also recommended making sure that the authorities at Bangladesh National Building Code follow the rules and that they be prosecuted them if they fail.
It also urged the government to build ready-made garment villages so that factories could be gradually moved there from towns and from nearby highways.
It also recommended logical and satisfactory salaries for workers.