Fight for life on under debris
A woman wails for her missing son near the collapsed Rana Plaza in Savar. Since the disaster, she has been frantically running in the area clinging to the hope that her son will return to her. Photo: Rashed Shumon
Around three days after the country's worst building collapse, the hope of finding more survivors was not all gone, though a sickening stench of decaying corpses filled the air in Savar.
Some 100 people were dragged out of the wreckage yesterday.
The rescuers were relentless in their efforts as people trapped inside were alive by what could only be described as a miracle.
The death toll, meantime, rose to 315.
The rescue crews bored deeper into the rubble of the collapsed nine-storey Rana Plaza yesterday. They provided water, saline and oxygen cylinders whenever they found a survivor inside.
"We have supplied saline, torchlight and oxygen to a spot where around 24 people are still alive," said Jashim Uddin, a rescuer.
Major General Chowdhury Hasan Sarwardi, general officer commanding of Nine Infantry Division, told reporters around noon that they could not remove the large slabs as many people were stuck inside. Their personnel made big holes to enter and bring out people, he added.
Since yesterday morning, news of more survivors spread among the relatives who gathered at Savar Bazar bus stand.
Many of the rescuers, risking their own lives, thrust themselves into certain points on the scene with whatever they had -- shovels, hammers and cutters.
The building came crashing down on around 3,000 garment workers on Wednesday morning, a day after some cracks developed on a few pillars and floors. The building's owner, Sohel Rana, a leader of the ruling Awami League's youth wing Jubo League, had dismissed the risks and kept the building open for business.
In the immediate aftermath, the locals spearheaded the rescue work. They were later aided by the army, police, Rab, BGB, Fire Service and Civil Defence personnel.
General people's lead in the rescue operation was noticed even on day three.
Meanwhile, Shahinur Islam, director of Inter-Services Public Relation, said, "Our first priority is to save the lives as per the government's instructions. We will carry on our operation until the last person is pulled out.”
"All necessary equipment is at our disposal. We are trying to make intelligent use of our resources," he added.
He was speaking at a press briefing at the spot around 4:30pm.
The ISPR director said 2,348 victims -- 304 deceased and 2,044 alive -- have so far been pulled out of the rubble. Of the bodies, 281 have been handed over to the families, he added.
The government's probe committees visited the spot yesterday.
On the site, a strong stench of decomposing bodies made the rescuers' work even more challenging. Many were seen spraying air freshener to remove the acrid smell.
The temperature soared to 36 degrees Celsius yesterday making life more difficult for the rescuers and of course, for the people trapped inside alive.
A few of the survivors were lucky to get water and food but many survived miraculously.
A woman was pulled out after being buried under the rubble for 45 hours. She was seriously dehydrated and had to drink her own urine to survive.
Shamim Islam, one of the rescuers, told The Daily Star that he along with two others hammered their way into the third floor around 7:40pm where they provided saline, bananas and bread to 26 entrapped people.
"Apart from providing food and water, we supplied oxygen through a pipe to these trapped people. They are now well and we hope to get them out," said Shamim, a driver by profession who joined the rescue operation on day one.
Another rescuer Sumon said they saw many people alive but they could not reach them. "It's so close yet so far," he said.
Many distraught relatives continue to rush to the scene searching for their near and dear ones, crying and frantically enquiring about their relatives. Many still wait in front of collapsed building with the hope that their loved ones will come out alive.
Relatives of victims continue to wait at the Savar Adharchandra High School playground, where the bodies are usually brought to.
A group of 40-50 people brought out a procession at the school around 10:30pm yesterday demanding the bodies of the deceased. Police later took control of the situation.
Mosi Uddowla Reza, assistant superintendent of police of Savar Model Police Station, told The Daily Star that their sources told them that Jamaat men led the procession but they were not sure.
Agitated relatives of the victims and locals also staged a demonstration around 10:30am in front of the collapsed Rana Plaza alleging slow rescue efforts.
They were involved in a scuffle with law enforcers involved in the rescue operation, which forced them to resort to rubber bullets.
At least 20 people, including some journalists of television channels, were injured yesterday morning when they rushed out of a building next door to Rana Plaza following a rumour that that building was collapsing.