The number of fatalities mounted to 52 till Friday evening
Many workers including children are still missing even after 24 hours of the blaze that broke out at the factory of Hashem Foods Limited in Narayanganj’s Rupganj on Thursday evening.
Among the workers, a significant number of children were employed in the factory, a sister concern of Sajeeb Group.
Dhaka Tribune correspondents from the spot and Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) reported that the families of the missing children were seen anxiously searching for their loved ones throughout the overnight operation and the day after.
Such a child was Shantamoni, 12, who joined the factory just two days ago to help the family amid the Covid situation.
“I told her not to work here, but she insisted. Her madrasa was closed due to the shutdown and many of her friends work here. That’s why she convinced me to let her work here,” said her mother while clamouring and urging everyone to find her daughter.
Shanatamoni used to work in the juice-processing unit of the factory.
After multiple efforts, the fire was brought under control after 18 hours of rescue operation. As soon as the fire service managed to enter the upper floors of the building, melted and incinerated corpses started coming out.
Later on Friday afternoon, an array of ambulances brought them to the DMCH morgue, as of now the number of fatalities stand at 52.
According to locals, the supervisor of the factory used to lock the factory from outside so that child labourers could not behave mischievously during the working hours. That is why many of them were left locked inside when the fire broke out.
However, there is still no official data on how many children were working in the building as the rescue operation is still underway.
Relatives looking for their loved ones at DMCH
Our DMCH correspondent reported that many relatives were running frantically around the hospital in search of their loved ones.
Champa Akhter, 15, was looking for her missing mother Mina Khatun, 35, since the incident. Both of them worked in the factory. At the time of the fire, she was working on the ground floor and her mother was upstairs.
"I have been searching everywhere. I have come to DMCH as she is still missing. I could not even see the dead bodies; I want my mother, even if she is dead – just give me her body.”
Since she could not find her mother in the morgue, Champa gave samples to the CID's crime scene unit for DNA profiling. She said: “Now I’ll have to wait. When will I find my mother?”
Kabir Hossain from Bhola’s Chorfashion area was looking for his son Hasnain, 12, and nephew Rakib Hossain, 17.
The duo used to work on the fourth floor of the factory and lived in a nearby area. They both went missing since the incident.
Hossain gave his DNA sample to the CID, as they started collecting the samples of the close relatives to identify the corpses.
Amena, 20, daughter of Morshed Mia from Kishoreganj, is also missing.
Her brother Kashem was wandering the DMCH corridors holding a photo of her.
A seven-member probe committee has been formed by the district administration to look into the incident. But no statement has come yet from the authorities about the illegal child labour in the factory along with how many of them are injured, dead or missing since the incident.