16 May 13
Posted at 1:19
Today was spent interviewing and photographing rescuers. Technology shortcomings still prevent image uploads so again today it's text only. A cyclone hit Bangladesh this morning so I awoke to heavy rain and wind and a few flooded roads. We still set off on our schedule, in the UK this weather would have brought the country to a halt but here they just get on with it.
The day started by visiting the Red Crescent. I interviewed and photographed two of the rescuer volunteers after meeting with their director. It was quite emotional listening to their experiences from arriving at the building just one hour after the collapse and staying there for 21 days. For not the last time today we heard how the collapsed building was likened to a pile of eight pancakes with bodies trapped between each of them. One of the moist heartbreaking stories was how voices could be heard and talked to but it was impossible to reach them, then one by one they went quiet and the rescuers, boys of just 18, knew this time they would need a body bag not a stretcher. This was repeated day in and out for the first 17 days.
Next we went to university and met a couple of amazing students. They have been Red Crescent volunteers since they were 12 years old. They had limited medical experience but did have dead body recovery training but 21 days ago neither had had to recover a dead body - they now have personally recovered many tens of bodies. It's easy to see the emotional scars. At the university they run a fund to support bereaved families and people who are seriously injured (multi amputees and spinal injuries. Their aim is to provide support and rehabilitation to them for months/years to come. They are passionate about doing something for those many in Bangladesh who have suffered for the garment industry. These are everyday university students who do all this voluntarily. It is humbling to talk with them and witness their pride and enthusiasm to make a change.
Last of all we visited the Fire Rescue and Civil Defence. A military like government run institution which appears locked in a colonial time warp. I interviewed the director of operations Major Mohammad Mahboob, a very impressive character who took me through the rescue process for Rana Plaza. He enjoyed having his photo taken as much as I enjoyed taking it. I then met with the team who were in charge of the whole rescue operation over the 21 days. I will cover more of it in future blogs (along with images). Their experiences and their stories are nothing short of remarkable.
I have now visited the Rana Plaza site, the homes of the survivors and bereaved families and have visited the hospitals and met the severely injured. Tomorrow I will visit a working garment factory and meet and photograph workers.
That is of course assuming cyclone Mahasen has moved on and left us intact!