3.1 Collapse and Causes
At approximately 8:45 am in the outskirts of Dhaka, in Savar, Bangladesh, a power outage occurred, a generator switched on and a building collapsed. This building carried the name Rana Plaza, derived from the name Sohel Rana, the owner of the building, and was home to four different Bangladeshi firms that manufactured clothing items for worldwide fashion brands. The different garment factories employed a total of 5000 people. The factories produced apparel for brands such as Benetton, Mango, Primark and Walmart. Several shops and a bank further occupied the building’s eight floors. Yet, Ali Ahmed Khan, Head of the National Fire Service of Bangladesh, stated that investigation prior to the collapse suggested that the building violated laws, as the four upper floors had been constructed illegally without any permits. Various architects involved in the design of the building, including Massood Reza, insisted that the building was planned for shops and offices but not factories. Other architects emphasized on the risks involved with placing machinery for factories within the building, as the structure of a building designed for shops and offices would not be sufficiently stable to tolerate the weight of heavy machinery. On the 23rd of April 2013, a day prior to the collapse, workers were asked by the management to leave their factories, as various cracks appeared in pillars, floors and walls. However, the building owner Sohel Rana claimed that an engineer had said the structure was in safe conditions and workers must return to work the following day. Managers of Ether Tex ltd, a textile company producing in the building, threatened to reserve a month’s pay if workers would not show up to work the day after. The next morning there was an impulsive shock, with the ground shaking as though there was an earthquake. Within two minutes, the eight-storey building had collapsed. More than 3120 workers from the five factories were present at the time of the collapse. With approximately 35% of the workers losing their lives, the remaining 65% seem to have incurred injuries, many of which were severe. The structure transformed into a mass of rubble, twisted metal and machinery and crushed and trapped bodies. The severity of the disaster was self-evident, with thousands of mainly female garment workers inside the building and local people rushing to the scene from which loud screams and calls for help were perceived. Those first on the scene were mainly local workers and relatives of those trapped, as well as rickshaw drivers. The priority was to provide help to survivors using any available tools to their availability. The enormity of the disaster enforced local people to provide their help throughout, even with the presence of emergency services. Bangladesh has a long history of similar incidents, however the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013 is the country’s worst-ever industrial tragedy to have occurred.
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