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Bangladesh tragedy toll hits 352, rescuers find 29 more alive

Dhaka, April 27 (IANS)

More than 84 hours after the horrendous tragedy, Bangladeshi rescuers Saturday pulled 29 more people alive from beneath the rubble of the collapsed building that has left 352 people dead so far.

The rescuers, who more than three days after the catastrophe managed to reach the ground floor of the eight-storied building which crumbled like a pack of cards Wednesday morning, believed that many more are still alive in the wreckage on the third floor, reported Xinhua.

In one of the worst tragedies in Bangladesh's history, officials say rescuers have so far pulled alive more than 2,500 people including several lucky survivors on Saturday night, keeping alive the hope that more lives can be saved as the rescue operation continues.

"352 bodies have so far been pulled out of the collapsed building," Badrul Alam Khan, a police official at a control room set up to provide information about the disaster fatalities, told Xinhua Saturday night.

Of the bodies, 341 have been handed over to their relatives, he said.

Rescuers in collaboration with thousands of volunteers and locals under the supervision of Bangladesh Army's 9th Infantry Division have been working without any break since Wednesday morning when the building collapsed. 

According to them, many pillars and ceilings have collapsed in such a way that any wrong move could cause a fresh tragedy. So they are making no hurry because they believed that many more can still be pulled out of the collapsed building alive.

"We'll go slow and steady because we want this to remain a rescue and not a recovery," a volunteer said.

Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardi of the 9th Infantry Division told reporters Saturday evening that rescue operations would not be wrapped up shortly as the rescuers involved in the operation have not left yet the hope of finding more survivors in the debris of the building, Rana Plaza, in Savar area of Dhaka's outskirts.

Following the cracks which were detected just one day before the accident, the workers were evacuated and the garments authorities declared a leave for Tuesday.

But nobody bothered about the cracks when officials of the factories forced the workers to join workplaces in the building on the next morning.

Even three days after the tragedy, it is not known exactly how many workers were inside when the building collapsed.

Rescuers reportedly came come up with a list of 761 people who are still unaccounted for.
According to the sources, almost all the death victims are workers of the five factories -- Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms -- which make clothing for many major global brands.

The building is owned by a leader of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Bangladesh Awami League party who reportedly constructed it without permission from relevant authorities, and assured the owners of the factories that there was no problem despite cracks detected.

Six floors of the building housed the five garment factories which, according to BGMEA, employed nearly 3,500 workers, mostly of them women.     

Furthermore, there were also a bank's branch and hundreds of shops inside the building.


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