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Dhaka high-rise collapse death toll at 384; hopes dim for survivors

Publication Date : 30-04-2013


Rescuers have pulled out seven more bodies from the debris of Rana Plaza in Dhaka's Savar subdistrict following the beginning of the rescue operation’s second phase using heavy lifting gears.

They had found 384 bodies and at least 2,437 survivors in the debris until last night, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and other sources, although it was not made clear how many people, dead or alive, are still trapped in the collapsed building.

Rana Plaza, a nine-storey building housing half a dozen readymade garment factories, had caved in on Wednesday after owners forced several thousand workers to come to work despite cracks that had developed on some pillars.

Yesterday, the site of deadliest building collapse in the country’s history was off limits to general people and the hundreds of relatives of workers were waiting outside the cordoned area for updates.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the area around 9:30 pm and spent about 15 minutes with survivors at the Enam Medical College and Hospital.

Meanwhile, fire fighters, members of armed forces and volunteers continued efforts to locate survivors within the debris.

After the second phase of rescues began around 11:30 pm on Sunday, hydraulic cranes started removing pillars and concrete slabs from backside of the building. One of the cranes was also seen removing debris from the front.

Shahinul Islam, director of the ISPR directorate, told reporters in the afternoon that the "operation will continue till the last survivor is found.”

He added they had already removed 90 tonnes of concrete slabs starting from the top of the debris.

The rescuers had dropped a special sensor and a camera into the ruins through a tunnel that had been bored through the walls, to spot if there was anyone trapped, the ISPR director said.

Asked how long this phase would continue, Shahinul said it was not possible to give an exact time frame, but they would try to complete it as soon as possible. They now have sufficient manpower and machinery to carry out the heavy lifting, he said.

According to some rescuers, the amount of debris is around 6,500 tonnes and it will take between 10 to 15 days to remove.

Yesterday, smoke could be seen coming out of the building until the afternoon.

Meanwhile, agitated relatives and locals had staged a demonstration in the morning and evening demanding to see the bodies of the dead.

At least 29 unidentified bodies were handed over to Anjuman Mofidul Islam, a charity organisation, for burial after collecting DNA samples.

The district administration says 30 unidentified bodies are presently kept at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and another 22 at Mitford Hospital. If nobody identifies them by 10 am tomorrow, they will be handed over to Anjuman.

Prayers from the pope

Pope Francis has called for prayers for the victims of the Savar tragedy, reports Vatican Radio, the official broadcasting service of the Vatican.

“Join me in praying for the victims of the tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that God will grant comfort and strength to their families,” the pope said in a tweet sent out on Saturday morning.


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