The Risking of Rescuers’ lives

© Taslima Akhter

By Anupam Shoikot Shanta

27th April 2013

Translation Humayun Kabir

The rescuers are working under a lot of pressure. I have felt that a little more today.

There is a Gonoshonghoti Camp behind the Rana Plaza building. We made teams there to go inside the building. Jesmin and I were there. Not only the Gonoshonghoti/ Student Federation members were there, a few people like us were there too. Importantly, the logistic support provided to the various teams working there came from our camp, as well as, the masks, water and air-fresheners provided to various members of different agencies.

The building is shaking, it can collapse anytime, the risk factor involved didn’t perturb me. The way people are entering-I think there was no reason to feel afraid. I am over 6-feet tall, pretty healthy, and I can carry almost a 100 kg. weight. I was calculating how to get in and how to get out. But the reason I didn’t get in is because of the sight of the dead bodies. Some were terribly wilted, rotted and I had little capacity to tolerate such a gruesome sight. Hence I did not go inside.I choose to help with the management of materials outside of the building.

Jesmin was ready with her helmet. People opposed her, calling her a newcomer, rookie and what not. Perhaps all of them were uneasy with her being a woman. Would Jesmin or has she accepted it?

Jesmin’s younger brother was also as ready as she. Despite her pleading, he decided to go ahead with the task.

One of the people from our camp, who were working there, suddenly fainted. The doctors had to be called in, and he was given saline. The doctors also advised us to take him to medical camp. The boy was pretty tall and I was having trouble carrying him on a stretcher. A soldier gave me some assistance later.

The team returned after an hour. Their only success, if it can be framed that way, was watching a lot of dead bodies.

A crane has been brought from somewhere else. An announcement made from a hand-mike said not to go there, since the building might collapse further because of the workings of the crane. I was a little afraid: there were still a lot of injured people stuck in the building. So why was the crane used now?

Someone working for another team(no comma) came with the information that at least 6-7 people were stuck, and they were alive. Four or five of us, including Jesmin and her brother, got ready to participate in the rescue effort.

We were hesitant to go though; the crane was doing its work, noisily. Since everyone else was going, Jesmin and I also went.

Everyone came back without any success. Someone from the team entered the sitef but lost consciousness.. Was it because of the foul smell or the lack of oxygen? He was rescued with the help of the Fire Service. They couldn’t confirm if the people who were stuck there are still alive.

I went to the side where the crane was working. They were removing the rubble without concentrating on the building. This was a good sign.

A body was recovered at night- through collective effort. The name of the boy was Altaf. I heard about him that morning from the conversation of two people the previous day. One saying to another, “You know, Altaf is dead.” “I know, I got the message.” A pillar fell on Altaf’s waist. The hip-bone has become separated, but he survived and was doing well. But he died today. Every rescuer knows about him. Everyone is sad today.

A few girls came.They were asking us to rescue their husbands. The bereavement of family members has now become a normal issue. Now we don’t feel as bad as we used to feel before. Then again when one of our rescuers heard that the woman is looking for her husband, the rescuers went with her to find him. Later we told the girl, “You do not know for sure where your husband is, so you have to be patient and be faithful to our efforts.”

I was talking to someone about the rescue effort. They rescued a few people alive after working from 3 AM to 12 in the morning. They drilled through the walls of an adjacent building. When 85 percent of their work was finished, suddenly fire-service people arrived and began to drill somewhere else, which caused the beam that the rescuers were working on to shake. They were told to stop, and from a collective effort the rescuers were able to rescue a few people. Then the army came; they tried to help, which was broadcast on television.

The government forces toiled hard to keep the onlookers at bay. We also asked the forces a couple of times to clear out the interested people. Thousands of people were there and a great many of them were filming the events unfolding.

. I came home at night. Then I got the news that two more had been rescued alive.

In 72 hours the rescue work is going to end. The government has said that a decision is required to be taken after 72 hours of rescue effort. There cannot be any other decision rather than the going ahead of the rescue efforts

Today I have sent messages to my office colleagues for fund-raising. I have also opened message threads for local and foreign friends. I am getting good response.

Tomorrow I will go again. First, I will do some shopping. Then I will go to Rana plaza.

Writer: Anupom Saikat Shanto
Activist & Engineer