It breaks every heart
Relatives chase an ambulance to see if it has carried the body of a loved one to a local school ground in Savar yesterday. Fearing the worst, relatives of the missing thronged it every time an ambulance reached the school playground. Photo: Palash Khan
The air of Savar Adharchandra High School is heavy with the stench of corpses and the despair of family members searching for their loved ones from the row of decomposing bodies.
As an ambulance enters the school ground, everyone rushes towards it with photographs in their hands. Some make queries in hushed tones while others scream, anticipating the worst.
After more than 30 hours of frantic searches, they want to know what happened to those who were inside the building when it collapsed on Wednesday.
Towards the afternoon, at the authority's instructions, the anxious relatives queue up and one by one they inch towards the corpses. Some pray, some cry, while some get too traumatised to betray any emotions.
Soufuddin Sheikh, with frail physique, weakened by the shock of his son's death, does not have the strength to carry the body of his only son. Staring blankly at the face of his dead son, he struggles to find words.
“Is this what I'll take back to my grandchildren? The dead body of their father?” he weeps. “And what if they ask for their mother?”
Although he finally found his son, he has no idea where his daughter-in-law is. After looking for her in nearby hospitals, he asks, “It's just us -- two oldies -- back home. How will we bring up those two children?”
One of his grandchildren is in class-IV and another in class-V.
An aged woman runs in circles, howling in pain. “They took them all, my jewels …”
In between her unintelligible wailing, she says she has lost four family members -- two daughters, a daughter-in-law and a grand daughter. However, she has only found the body of daughter Ruma.
Meanwhile, the surroundings of Rana Plaza and neighbouring hospitals teem with helpless relatives. They run from one hospital to another, clutching the latest photographs of the missing.
The list hung outside each hospital with the names of the injured can only placate some. The majority, disappointed, are forced to begin their search all over again. In the absence of a central coordinating committee, the relatives have no choice but to drift around in panic.
Mafizul Islam and his sister-in-law roam about Enam Medical College and Hospital in search of his wife, Ratna. They found her name on the list and were told that she was in ward 702. Thanking the Almighty, they rushed to the ward, only to find that she wasn't there.
Near the collapsed building, a hysterical mother runs towards the rescuers each time a body is brought out, fighting the crowd telling her to wait in a corner.
Another pleads, “Tell them she is still alive but trapped. I beg you! Go tell them to dig her out.”
Molina points at the distance, and says, “Look, that's where he [my husband] used to sit. He joined only 10 days ago.”
Dozens of people gather around The Daily Star correspondents, either mistaking them for officials or hoping that the media can help them, and urge them to take the names and photographs of the missing.
A woman, mother of 19-year-old Jasim, and 10-12 members of her family have been looking for the youth since Wednesday morning. “We've gone everywhere, even to DMCH and Pongu Hospital,” she says.
“But no one can tell us anything.”