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In Pictures: Recounting horror of Rana Plaza
Suffering continues for survivors and victims’ families a year after the building collapsed in Dhaka.
Last updated: 27 Apr 2014 06:26
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The nightmare continues for many of those who survived the collapse of the Rana Plaza building on the outskirts of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, as they struggle to come to terms with the life-changing injuries and trauma they suffered when the eight-storey complex collapsed with more than 3,100 workers inside.

The stench of death still hangs over the site of the disaster in Savar, where five factories churning out cheap clothing for big western brands collapsed like a house of cards on April 24 last year -- the deadliest structural failure of a factory building ever.

Already the world’s cheapest workers struggling to make ends meet when the tragedy struck, the physical and mental injuries they suffered now prevent many from earning a living at all -- and entire families have been thrown into disarray and split up.

Survivors all tell a similar story of lives blighted by the loss of their sole source of income -- like Laboni Khanam, who lost an arm and cannot work; Mohammad Milon, whose spine was damaged and now relies on his wife's income; and Rahima Akhter Lucky, who suffered brain damage and cannot be employed.

While they have had help from the prime minister’s relief fund, NGOs, charities and social organisations, many families lost their sole breadwinner and have been forced to sell off jewellery and furniture or have been broken up as they return to their villages or send children to live with relatives.

As Primark, one of the multinational chains whose suppliers operated in Rana Plaza, pays out the first tranche of compensation, survivors talk of paltry payments of between $600 and $1,200 that are quickly spent and in some cases merely cover the cost of medicines.

For them the future looks grim – yet signs of hope have also emerged from the rubble as some survivors like Shokhina Begum rebuild their lives with a determination that paints a picture of a Bangladesh whose workers continue to defy the odds and win the daily battle for survival.


/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Collective efforts from Bangladesh Army personnel, civilians and family members of workers, had led to a more than 20 day-long rescue operation that was finally called off on May 17, 2013. Although the Rana Plaza site is empty now, an odour of death still permeates from it, driving locals to relive the horrors that had occurred here a year back.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

During the rescue operations, deadbodies retrieved from the collapsed building were transferred to the Savar Adhar Chandra High School premises, nearby. Family members of workers queued up to identify bodies of their loved ones.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Laboni Khanam and her husband Musa worked at the Rana Plaza. Although Musa managed to rush out of the building following the collapse, Laboni was buried under a pile of rubble. Rescuers had to cut off her left hand to rescue her from the building. Laboni was frustrated and traumatised after the incident (the photo was taken during her stay at Enam Medical College Hospital at Savar). Fortunately, Laboni was one of 11 Rana Plaza victims who were provided with mechanical prosthetic limbs by BRAC, a social organisation, in November last year. Laboni does not work anymore. She has returned to her village along with Musa.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

On April 24, 2013, Mohammad Milon (32) [second left] was working at 'New Wave Bottoms' on the second floor of Rana Plaza. "Like everyone else, I rushed toward the stairs as soon as the rumbling began," he recalled. But a pillar soon fell on him. "I was pinned in a half kneeling position with the rubble pressing down on my shoulders," he said. 

Milon did not give up and made his way through the rubble. "I was rescued by others outside the building around afternoon of the day and taken to a hospital, where I was operated upon," he said. 

He was released the next day. "But I could not walk properly. I went to have an X-ray done and was told that my spine was affected. I am still going for therapies regularly and can now walk in intervals. I have to sit down after 10 to 12 minutes of walking though." 

He shared that his four-member family including his two daughters and wife, are being supported by his wife's income.

He informed Al Jazeera that he has received compensations in phases that summed up to $1,233 (Tk 95,000) till date. "The entire amount was spent in medicines and treatments. This is not enough. But we have to survive somehow," he said.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Md Khwaja Miah (47) still cannot forget his daughter Khairunnahar Munni (20) who worked at Rana Plaza. "She rushed to work after her supervisor called and order her to get to work," he said. "I was still asleep and she had asked her mother not to wake me up, as I may stop her from going to the building which had developed cracks the previous day. That was the last time she left our house," he stifled a cry.

Munni's deadbody was recovered on April 24.

Miah said, "We have received a cheque of nearly $1,300 (Tk 1 lakh) from the Prime Minister on April 16. Earlier, we had also received around Tk 45,000 in three phases [Primark]. But my daughter was the sole bread-earner of my five member family. I have not worked since my stroke a few years back. We are now surviving by selling off jewellery, furniture etc. Any form of help would help my family survive."

 


/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Rahima Akhter Lucky is Khwaja Miah's eldest daughter and Munni's sister. She was also working at Rana Plaza on April 24. Although she was rescued soon after the incident, she received injuries to her head. This has left her mentally unstable.

"She does not communicate with people and likes to keep to herself now. Often while conversing with a person she breaks into a fit of rage and becomes violent," said Khwaja. "She has not been working ever since the incident. Her husband has been supporting the family by pulling rickshaws."

While talking to Al Jazeera, Lucky stated that she fears high-rise buildings now. "From time to time, I still feel pains in my chest and head," she said.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Like Milon, Shikha (22) also worked for New Wave Bottoms and was rescued on April 24, 2013. "But my right hand was wounded beyond comprehension. I was operated at Suhrawardy Hospital in Dhaka and now I have a rod in my right hand," she said.

Doctors have asked Shikha not to lift heavy objects or take much stress. "Movement is difficult for me," she said while hoping that the rod will soon be taken out by the doctors.

Md Sumon, Shikha's husband and a rickshaw-puller, informed Al Jazeera that she has received only $386 (Tk 30,000) in compensation till now.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Md Altab Hossain's [in the photo beside photographs of his deceased wife and three daughters] entire family is in a disarray now.

After his wife Asma Hossain died in the collapse, Hossain sent his eldest daughter Kalpona Akhter (12) and youngest daughter Ashamoni (4) to their village home in Gaibandha. His other daughter, Rashida (7) is now living at a free hostel supervised by Anjuman Mufidul Islam in Savar. After the Rana Plaza disaster, Anjuman Mufidul Islam, the non-government charity organisation, initiated a programme to rehabilitate the children of workers who had died in the incident. 

"I had no other way. Who else will look after them when I am working," said Hossain, who works as a day-labourer in Savar now.

Till date, Hossain has received only $579 (Tk 45,000) as compensation. "If I get a significant fund, I plan to take Rashida and return to my village where I will live with my three daughters. I will work as a day-labourer there also. But at least there will be other family members who will look after my children," he said.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Tania [right] had jumped out of the building and fell on the tinshed roof of the warehouse behind the Rana Plaza building.

"I managed to rescue her and I remember extracting sharp metals out of her face and shoulders, after bringing her home. I never thought she will survive," said Shihab [left], Tania's husband. Tania had to be admitted to a hospital due to infection in her leg.

"I have not worked since the incident and cannot do even household chores now. My head throbs with pain," she said.

Tania has allegedly received no compensations. The family of three survives only on Shihab’s income as a rickshaw-puller now.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Shokhina Begum (55) [right] is happy that at least Marium Akhter [left], one of her two daughters who worked at Rana Plaza, managed to escape the collapse. 

"But my other daughter Salma Khatun [in the photo that Begum is holding] died under the rubble," said Begum.

She has received compensation from Prime Minister relief fund and apparel company Primark.

To supplement the family's earning, Begum now works at a local restaurant as a kitchen help.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

Kawser [baby in the picture] was born five months back to Asha [left]. Kawser will never have the opportunity to meet his father Abu Zafar Sentu (21) who died during the collapse.

Asha was abandoned by Zafar's family members soon after the collapse. The family members even took away most of the compensation leaving nothing for her and her unborn child initially.

"Soon after Kawser was born, my mother-in-law returned. She accepted Kawser and only two days back, we received the cheque from the Prime Minister," said Asha.

"I am planning to save the money for my child. Also, few months later, I plan to receive some training that will help me in ensuring an income," she said.

She informed Al Jazeera that a number of non-government organisations are providing financial support to the family.



/Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera

About 80 percent of the workforce in Bangladesh’s garment sector are women. Workers have complained of low wage, which was revised last December. But workers say even the new pay structure is inadequate to maintain a decent living standard, as the improved remuneration was followed by lengthy working hours and cutting down of employee benefits by employers.




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/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114211426199_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114211738956_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/20144211421282828_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114212254973_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114212520218_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114212863352_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/20144211421398376_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114213270781_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114213457871_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114213832759_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/21/201442114213676699_8.jpg;*;/mritems/images/2014/4/22/201442275020499338_8.jpg
captions:

Collective efforts from Bangladesh Army personnel, civilians and family members of workers, had led to a more than 20 day-long rescue operation that was finally called off on May 17, 2013. Although the Rana Plaza site is empty now, an odour of death still permeates from it, driving locals to relive the horrors that had occurred here a year back.

;*;

During the rescue operations, deadbodies retrieved from the collapsed building were transferred to the Savar Adhar Chandra High School premises, nearby. Family members of workers queued up to identify bodies of their loved ones.

;*;

Laboni Khanam and her husband Musa worked at the Rana Plaza. Although Musa managed to rush out of the building following the collapse, Laboni was buried under a pile of rubble. Rescuers had to cut off her left hand to rescue her from the building. Laboni was frustrated and traumatised after the incident (the photo was taken during her stay at Enam Medical College Hospital at Savar). Fortunately, Laboni was one of 11 Rana Plaza victims who were provided with mechanical prosthetic limbs by BRAC, a social organisation, in November last year. Laboni does not work anymore. She has returned to her village along with Musa.

;*;

On April 24, 2013, Mohammad Milon (32) [second left] was working at (***)New Wave Bottoms(***) on the second floor of Rana Plaza. "Like everyone else, I rushed toward the stairs as soon as the rumbling began," he recalled. But a pillar soon fell on him. "I was pinned in a half kneeling position with the rubble pressing down on my shoulders," he said. 

Milon did not give up and made his way through the rubble. "I was rescued by others outside the building around afternoon of the day and taken to a hospital, where I was operated upon," he said. 

He was released the next day. "But I could not walk properly. I went to have an X-ray done and was told that my spine was affected. I am still going for therapies regularly and can now walk in intervals. I have to sit down after 10 to 12 minutes of walking though." 

He shared that his four-member family including his two daughters and wife, are being supported by his wife(***)s income.

He informed Al Jazeera that he has received compensations in phases that summed up to $1,233 (Tk 95,000) till date. "The entire amount was spent in medicines and treatments. This is not enough. But we have to survive somehow," he said.

;*;

Md Khwaja Miah (47) still cannot forget his daughter Khairunnahar Munni (20) who worked at Rana Plaza. "She rushed to work after her supervisor called and order her to get to work," he said. "I was still asleep and she had asked her mother not to wake me up, as I may stop her from going to the building which had developed cracks the previous day. That was the last time she left our house," he stifled a cry.

Munni(***)s deadbody was recovered on April 24.

Miah said, "We have received a cheque of nearly $1,300 (Tk 1 lakh) from the Prime Minister on April 16. Earlier, we had also received around Tk 45,000 in three phases [Primark]. But my daughter was the sole bread-earner of my five member family. I have not worked since my stroke a few years back. We are now surviving by selling off jewellery, furniture etc. Any form of help would help my family survive."

 
;*;

Rahima Akhter Lucky is Khwaja Miah(***)s eldest daughter and Munni(***)s sister. She was also working at Rana Plaza on April 24. Although she was rescued soon after the incident, she received injuries to her head. This has left her mentally unstable.

"She does not communicate with people and likes to keep to herself now. Often while conversing with a person she breaks into a fit of rage and becomes violent," said Khwaja. "She has not been working ever since the incident. Her husband has been supporting the family by pulling rickshaws."

While talking to Al Jazeera, Lucky stated that she fears high-rise buildings now. "From time to time, I still feel pains in my chest and head," she said.

;*;

Like Milon, Shikha (22) also worked for New Wave Bottoms and was rescued on April 24, 2013. "But my right hand was wounded beyond comprehension. I was operated at Suhrawardy Hospital in Dhaka and now I have a rod in my right hand," she said.

Doctors have asked Shikha not to lift heavy objects or take much stress. "Movement is difficult for me," she said while hoping that the rod will soon be taken out by the doctors.

Md Sumon, Shikha(***)s husband and a rickshaw-puller, informed Al Jazeera that she has received only $386 (Tk 30,000) in compensation till now.

;*;

Md Altab Hossain(***)s [in the photo beside photographs of his deceased wife and three daughters] entire family is in a disarray now.

After his wife Asma Hossain died in the collapse, Hossain sent his eldest daughter Kalpona Akhter (12) and youngest daughter Ashamoni (4) to their village home in Gaibandha. His other daughter, Rashida (7) is now living at a free hostel supervised by Anjuman Mufidul Islam in Savar. After the Rana Plaza disaster, Anjuman Mufidul Islam, the non-government charity organisation, initiated a programme to rehabilitate the children of workers who had died in the incident. 

"I had no other way. Who else will look after them when I am working," said Hossain, who works as a day-labourer in Savar now.

Till date, Hossain has received only $579 (Tk 45,000) as compensation. "If I get a significant fund, I plan to take Rashida and return to my village where I will live with my three daughters. I will work as a day-labourer there also. But at least there will be other family members who will look after my children," he said.

;*;

Tania [right] had jumped out of the building and fell on the tinshed roof of the warehouse behind the Rana Plaza building.

"I managed to rescue her and I remember extracting sharp metals out of her face and shoulders, after bringing her home. I never thought she will survive," said Shihab [left], Tania(***)s husband. Tania had to be admitted to a hospital due to infection in her leg.

"I have not worked since the incident and cannot do even household chores now. My head throbs with pain," she said.

Tania has allegedly received no compensations. The family of three survives only on Shihab’s income as a rickshaw-puller now.

;*;

Shokhina Begum (55) [right] is happy that at least Marium Akhter [left], one of her two daughters who worked at Rana Plaza, managed to escape the collapse. 

"But my other daughter Salma Khatun [in the photo that Begum is holding] died under the rubble," said Begum.

She has received compensation from Prime Minister relief fund and apparel company Primark.

To supplement the family(***)s earning, Begum now works at a local restaurant as a kitchen help.

;*;

Kawser [baby in the picture] was born five months back to Asha [left]. Kawser will never have the opportunity to meet his father Abu Zafar Sentu (21) who died during the collapse.

Asha was abandoned by Zafar(***)s family members soon after the collapse. The family members even took away most of the compensation leaving nothing for her and her unborn child initially.

"Soon after Kawser was born, my mother-in-law returned. She accepted Kawser and only two days back, we received the cheque from the Prime Minister," said Asha.

"I am planning to save the money for my child. Also, few months later, I plan to receive some training that will help me in ensuring an income," she said.

She informed Al Jazeera that a number of non-government organisations are providing financial support to the family.

;*;

About 80 percent of the workforce in Bangladesh’s garment sector are women. Workers have complained of low wage, which was revised last December. But workers say even the new pay structure is inadequate to maintain a decent living standard, as the improved remuneration was followed by lengthy working hours and cutting down of employee benefits by employers.

Daylife ID:
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Photographer:
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Image Source:
Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera;*;Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera
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