Early at 9AM on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, a 9 storied building collapsed to rubble in seconds at the Savar area.
The ground floor till the 2nd story was a market of shops popularly known as the ‘Rana Plaza’. The floors from the 3rd to the 9th comprised of the RMG factories namely, “New Wave Style Limited”, “New Wave Bottoms Limited (sic)”, :Ether Garments Limited” and “Phantom Garments Limited”. Each floor housed a minimum of 800 workers. The eighth and ninth floor was made illegally. “New Wave Style Limited” was subcontracting for Azim Group.
It has been reported that these factories were manufacturing cloths for leading western brands and had recently been through an audit which gave them a clear go ahead for their works ahead.
When workers refused to work on Wednesday morning, fearing the growing ridge on the wall, they had been forced into the factory by factory goons and guards to continue their work as the next shipment was to be on 28th April 2013. The collapse only lasted a few seconds and moments later more than 5000 workers were amass a hill of rods, bricks and dirt all over them. The building owner, a man involved into Bangladeshi Politics, has been absent from the scene and remain unavailable to talk.
The area surrounding the disaster site and the Enam Medical College and Hospital in Savar, as well as the Pangu Hospital in Central Dhaka is filled with moaning victims and their desperate relatives wailing with pictures, looking for their loved ones.
Hospitals mainly, Enam Medical College and Hospital at Savar, brought in hundreds of workers from the site in Ambulances and vans. Emergency ward reported that a minimum of 100 deaths had been reported by mid-day and more than a 1000 have been treated with injuries (some of which are quite critical). Workers from neighboring factories and locals who witnessed it all mentioned that the death count to amount to at least 500. Thousands are yet to be excavated from the rubble.
Some of the highly critical victims of this disaster are being constantly taken to the Dhaka Pangu Hospital (Orthopedic Hospital) to be given better treatment or be just saved form an eminent death.
Khairul, a factory supervisor working on the 7th floor of New Wave Style Ltd reports that he had been shifted to Pangu Hospital along with his GM (General Manager) to be given treatment. “There are scores of dead, it cannot be less than several hundreds as the factories across the building was filled with workers. The bodies are coming in without heads and limbs; my arms and legs can’t move as the bloods inside have clotted, there are blood clots on my head … I am in a critical condition, I need help. We had to get the workers to work even when there was a crack because he had to complete the orders of our buyers (names a few buyers). If we do not complete the work on time we would be fined heavily. I am going to die surely, I am in pain…”.
There were many electronic and print media covered the issue early in the morning despite the road closure due to the 36 hour long strike since Tuesday.
One of the greatest tragedy unfolding the the hospitals are the shortage of beds and physicians to care for the victims. “I am a student, I am put here and I am trying to do my best. I never saw anything like this before”, says Monwarul, a student at Enam Medical College and Hospital, now turned into an in-charge of an overflowing ward with critical patients on the floor.
Blood everywhere and a sense of helpless on the face of the physicians tell a story of ill preparation for a disaster of this scale around a place filled with contractors and subcontractors for the leading apparel brands of Europe and USA.
It must be mentioned that the workers are not being paid for their medical bills yet, neither have they been given any promises. They are having to bear the hospital bills which are now piling up on them like another tall and heavy bulk of rubble, only waiting to fall on their vulnerable lives.
We are there too at the spot, beside our brothers and sisters in this time of calamity, but this wound cannot be healed with a mere article! We will raise our voice and we will fight for justice for SAFER WORKPLACES be it “Fire Safety”, “Structural Safety” or Safety from the so called extra legal forces kept by these factory owners to force the workers into the jaws of death.
We urge our readers to speak out on their social media and raise awareness in their communities through whatever means they have and come forward to express their solidarity across miles towards those people who tried to earn a day’s meal my stitching their favorite expensive cloth. YOU MUST SEE AND SHOW your friends and this will surely MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
RISE Society will be following up with this matter and see its progress. The worker’s cries need to be heard, lets hope the dead are not hidden to save a few as we saw during the Tazreen Inferno. The names are coming up and we are in touch with our sources across the scene. We all will have a chance to change how things turn out in this situation, and we hope that it will be in the favor of the hard working women and men.