A nation came to a standstill as it witnessed a heartbreaking tragedy, one which has left an indelible mark on the conscience of a nation. Two days have passed since ‘Rana Plaza’, an 8 storey building collapsed at Savar in Bangladesh on the 24th of March at around 08:45 am. The building housed four garments institutions, a branch of the BRAC bank and market complexes among others. Eight floors collapsed on each other and the collateral damage heavily affected nearby buildings as well. The devastating impact on human life rises by the hour as more than 250 people and counting have lost their lives and the injured number thousands. Many more are feared dead or dying as the clock keeps on ticking.
|Photo of collapsed Rana Plaza at Savar (Courtesy: Daily Star)|
The rescue operation seems to progress at a pace which suggests that the procession of the dead will not stop anytime soon. Platoons of rescue teams toil around the clock; their selfless efforts seem so heroic yet speak of such futility at the same time. A nation saw them understaffed and undermanned, yet their spirit and resilience to go back again and again amazed us all. We have been participating ourselves and encouraging others to participate in donating blood, medicine, saline and money to the victims. The incident has turned into a saga with a huge participation by the people, especially from in and around Dhaka and surrounding areas. Yet the reality is that many are still trapped inside. Debris and huge slabs of concrete still remain in place, unable to be removed either due to problems with equipment, inadequate training or a myriad of other problems. Rescue workers say that even one third of the operation hasn’t been done yet. All this happened due to a single careless command by the owners; the command to go back to work. And it all happened in a single building. The object of all this attention, my friends, is a single building.
Imagine what would happen if an 8.2 magnitude earth quake hit Dhaka right now. Here is an opinion piece which addresses an imaginative but frightfully accurate post-apocalyptic scenario of Dhaka after an earthquake of 8.2 magnitude on the Richter scale. Moreover, news reports have been regularly warning us that we are at the threshold of a major earthquake that might happen any time. With more than 160 million people, Bangladesh is the most crowded place on earth, and one of the poorest–and it is growing fast. It sits on the world’s largest river delta, close to sea level, which exposes it to tsunamis and the possibility of rivers jumping their banks in the event of earthquake. And, it is furiously putting up bridges and multistory buildings that increase its vulnerability. Scientists have come to recognize that it sits at the juncture of several active tectonic plate boundaries–including the tail end of the one that caused the 2004 Sumatra tsunami that killed over 200,000 people, 1,300 miles south. Syed Humayun Akhter, a seismologist at the Dhaka University Earth Observatory, warns that an earthquake near the crowded capital could dwarf other modern tragedies. "It is absolutely true that large scale earthquakes may occur in Bangladesh. It can happen any day - today, tomorrow or after 100 years," he said.
As the whole nation looks up to a beleaguered and under-equipped task force that two days on, still struggles to rescue people from underneath the rubble of a single building, isn’t it time for us to ask whether we are equipped to face the next big calamity?