With over 200 people killed in one of the worst building collapses in Bangladesh, thousands of distraught people on Thursday watched rescuers search for their loved ones trapped under the rubble of the eight-story complex that had come crashing down within seconds.
"So far 204 bodies were retrieved and 2,013 people were rescued alive from under the debris," Major General Abul Hassan Sarwardy, overseeing the rescue campaign, told reporters on the outskirts of Dhaka, where the tragedy took place Wednesday morning.
Sarwardy, who is the general officer commanding of army’s Savar-based 9th Division, said that the highly trained military and fire brigade rescuers would continue to search for those who were still trapped under tons of debris.
"They are cautiously penetrating inside the wreck using concrete and rod cutters and retrieving the bodies manually ... use of heavy equipment could collapse the building further causing more casualties," he said.
The Rana Plaza, an eight-storey commercial building, housed three garment units supplying Western clothes retailers, a bank branch and around three hundred shops.
Locals said around 3,500 workers, mostly women, of the garment factories were working when the tragedy struck.
Meanwhile, national flag flew at half-mast as Bangladesh declared a day of mourning on Thursday.
Director of the Industrial Police Mostafizur Rahman has blamed the garment factory owners for the collapse, as they were operating their units ignoring the cracks spotted in the building on Tuesday.
"The Industrial Police had asked the owners of the factories to suspend operations after cracks were noticed in Rana Plaza. We had asked them to operate the factories only after a structural inspection by engineers," Rahman said.
Bangladesh’s booming garment industry has been plagued by fires and other accidents for years. The country witnessed the last major building collapse in 2005 when over 70 people were killed after a multi-storey garment factory collapsed in the same area.
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