Teams were using light cutting equipment to try to reach the trapped men, whose weakening cries drift up from below. Search teams are dropping water and food through gaps in the rubble. Rescuers are digging tunnels through the rubble with bare hands, drills and shovels because they fear heavier equipment could cause further collapse. With the smell of decomposing bodies making some rescuers ill, time is running out before officials bring in heavy machinery.
Twenty-nine people were rescued on Saturday and two engineers were arrested, but the building's owner is still missing. The engineers were alleged to have approved the building's safety a day before it came down. Police said they had ordered an evacuation of the building on Tuesday after cracks appeared in the structure on Tuesday. The factories ignored instructions and operated the next day. The owners of three of the five clothing factories inside face preliminary charges of causing death by negligence.
The collapse of Rana Plaza, the eight-storey building which housed five garment factories, is not the first incident of its kind. Back in 2005, a similar building collapsed in the same town, leaving 64 garments workers dead. The factory owner was arrested but did not serve any time in prison.
Since then, there have been fires, stampedes and other incidents at various garment factories, causing hundreds of deaths. Most recently, more than 100 workers perished in a fire at a township close to Dhaka where hundreds of factories are located. In most of the incidents, the deaths were preventable. Often, workers could not escape because exits were locked.
Lessons must be learned from the most recent catastrophe. These workers must never be subjected to danger again while they go about their business. Let us hope the people will return to their celebration of life and parade the streets dressed in colorful garments with joyous, smiling masks once more.
Here in my study, brilliant morning sun pierces the window, forecasting a beautiful spring day. Young horses gallop from one enclosure to another over fields that stretch up a gentle slope to a distant graveyard, where citizens lie untroubled. In the peace and safety of Hertfordshire, England, my heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those affected.