Savar: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday visited suburban Savar to review the rescue works at the site where an eight-storey building collapsed last week killing nearly 400 people, even as rescuers lost hope to find more survivors after a fire broke out in the rubble. Hasina talked to the rescue officials about the progress of the salvage campaign and went to a nearby private facility and a military hospital where the critically wounded survivors were being treated.
Television footage showed army troops cordoning off half a kilometre area around the collapsed Rana Plaza site, restricting entry of grim-faced relatives and onlookers at the site where army engineers mobilised heavy machines like cranes and bulldozers to remove tonnes of concrete rubble. The structure, that housed five garment factories, a bank branch and around 300 shops employing thousands of workers, collapsed on April 24 leaving at least 397 people dead.
"We are now launching the second phase (of the rescue campaign)," commander of the salvage operation Major General Chowdhury Hassan Sarwardy told reporters soon after midnight. At least 397 bodies have been retrieved so far and 2,443 people rescued alive in four days of rescue operations.
In the first phase, rescuers crawled inside the rubble using small concrete and rod cutters fearing use of heavy machines could shake the concrete ruins endangering further the survivors inside the ruins of illegally built Rana Plaza. But they went for the mechanical methods after hours of frantic effort to rescue alive the last detected survivor was disrupted by a fire, sparked from a rod cutting saw, apparently killing the woman.
"It is very unlikely that someone is still alive under the rubble without sufficient air and water... But Allah knows better," a senior fire official told reporters as asked if they still expect anyone to survive. Meanwhile, fugitive owner of the building Sohel Rana was arrested by the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion from Benapole, one of the 14 land ports with India, just as he was about to cross into West Bengal, making his arrest the fifth in the case.