Savar death toll touches 397, four rescued on 5th day

Rescue operations in Rana Plaza at Savar continued for the fifth day on Sunday as rescuers found some survivors inside the nine-storey building that collapsed on Wednesday morning. The death toll in the tragedy rose to 397 on Sunday evening. In total, 2,437 people were rescued so far from the building, including the four, who managed to survive battling death for the last five days. The rescuers confirmed the existence of five survivors inside the building and till the filing of the report frantic efforts were on to rescue them.
According to control room sources, 351 bodies were handed over to the victims’ families. Four victims, trapped under the debris, were pulled out alive after 100 hours by 12:30 pm on Sunday.
The survivors were rescued from the third floor of the building. Rescuers have come up with a list of 761 people who are still missing in the worst building collapse of the country.
The list has been made as per information given by the relatives of those who used to work inside the Rana Plaza, Savar Model Police Station inspector (Investigation) Aminur Rahman said.
“We have put the names on the list after checking the identity cards and photos of those missing until 12am on Saturday,” he added. Though time is running out fast, the hope for saving lives is still burning bright in the eyes of the rescuers.
It was 2:30 am on Sunday. At the south-eastern part on the seventh floor of the tattered site, where all the eight floors collapsed one over another and were sandwiched, hundreds of people set their eyes on the young volunteers who frequently went down the tiny drilled out holes in search of survivors.
The rescuers confirmed they found some workers who were still alive in two groups of two and four. Though there was a plan to engage heavy equipment, including bulldozers and derricks in the rescue operation, the idea was dropped after strong protests from the relatives of the missing workers who argued that the survivors might be affected due to the move.
Some army personnel began to announce with mikes that the front portion of the building needs to be freed of people and vehicles to make way for the bulldozers. “The building will be pulled apart soon,” the announcement came.
But the relatives of the victims did not approve the move at all. Brigadier General Siddiqul Alam Sikder, who is supervising the rescue mission, assured the kin of the victims that the site would not be bulldozed as long as a single survivor is there.
Earlier in the morning, the Rescue Operation Coordination Committee decided to start operations using heavy equipment to rescue those still trapped inside the collapsed eight-storey building. “We’ve decided to use heavy equipment, including hydraulic cranes, to rescue the trapped people,” Major General Hasan Chowdhury Suhrawardi, chairman of the Rescue Operation Coordination Committee and also the GOC of 9th Infantry Division, said while briefing the media in front of the collapsed building.
He said, “We’ve stopped manual rescue operation and the rescuers have already been removed from inside the collapsed building. We’ll be able to rescue the people who are alive using hydraulic cranes.”
Such rescue operations are carried out in three phases – first manually rescuing people and then removing the debris in the last two phases.
“Until now, we prioritised the safety of those alive and trapped inside. We were on the first phase. But now, the manual method is proving a bit tough. That is why we are turning to use of technology.”
Representatives of the various bodies involved in the rescue operations said now there was a risk to continue manual operations after four days, he said.
“We have agreed to use equipment for the first phase of operations now. The use has to be careful. This will speed up work and ensure the safety of those alive. There is no other option without equipment now,” he added.
He, however, added that the rescuers would now enter the rubbles on crane boxes creating boreholes from the top and pull out the survivors as it appeared impossible to penetrate the concrete ruins manually using rod cutters and hand saws.
‘But the rescuers will select calculated sites for boreholes cautiously and enter inside so that the survivors or their own lives are not endangered,” he said.
At the press conference, Suhrawardy said there were nine more survivors on the third floor of the building. Heavy machines will be deployed after they are rescued.
Suhrawardi said, “Patriotism, courage, personal efficiency and physical effort were the key tools of rescue in the last four days and now we want to use heavy machines as it is not possible to reach to the trapped people manually.”
The rescuers also rescued 30 people alive from the rubbles of the building in the past 24 hours, he added.
Of the injured, some died and others were discharged after being administered first aid, he said.

-With The Independent input

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