Long wait for relatives a month after disaster

Relatives said Friday they were still waiting for news of their missing loved ones, as many gathered to mark one month since the country’s worst industrial tragedy.
A government official said on Friday that more than 300 people were still formally unaccounted for after the collapse of the garment factory complex on April 24 that killed 1,127 people. Family of the dead and missing along with labour activists and students gathered to lay floral wreaths at the site and build a small, brick memorial.
Nasima Begum, 40, said she had searched tirelessly since the tragedy for her son who had been working on the third floor of the doomed building. “I have checked everywhere, at hospitals, at mortuaries, at graveyards, but I did not find my son or his dead body,” Begum told AFP at the site on the outskirts of Dhaka, clutching a photograph of him.
Authorities have stopped searching for bodies at the nine-storey Rana Plaza complex in Savar district since the tragedy that highlighted appalling safety conditions in the sector.
Most of Bangladesh’s top garment factories, which make clothing for a string of major Western retailers including Walmart, H&M, Tesco, Inditex and Carrefour, are based at Savar.
Authorities say at least 2,438 people — mostly female garment workers — were rescued from the site, including 968 people who were seriously injured. But the chief government administrator of the local district said that “some 316 people are still unaccounted for”.
Many of those are thought to be bodies recovered from the rubble, which were too badly damaged to identify. They were buried at a graveyard in Dhaka after DNA samples were collected for later identification, authorities have said. “We have kept DNA profiles of unidentified bodies before burial. We will match those profiles with their relatives’ to confirm identity and compensation beneficiaries,” the official, Kamrul Hasan Molla, told AFP.
Begum said she had given her DNA sample to the authorities to match it against those collected from the bodies, but had heard nothing.
Some of those gathered at the site angrily demanded that the government improve safety standards in the nation’s 4,500 garment plants, as well as punish those responsible for the collapse.
“This is no way an accident, this is murder of so many workers, which is unprecedented in our history,” said Anik Biswash, a university student in Dhaka.
“We demand exemplary punishment to the culprits and the government upgrades factory safety standards to prevent such disasters in future.”
Afroza Khatun, editor of a local magazine said: “Today we have erected a makeshift memorial in respect of the dead workers. We demand the government set up a permanent memorial.”
A government inquiry into the collapse earlier this week said the building’s owner was the “main culprit” for the disaster because he violated construction codes.
The panel asked the government to prosecute the owner, a low-level official of the ruling Awami League, and the owners of the five factories based in the building for “culpable homicide” which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

-With The Independent input

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