No option other than DNA profiling to identify victims
Rescue workers and firefighters were at a loss for words while describing the harrowing scenes inside the food processing factory that caught fire in Rupganj, Narayanganj, on Thursday.
At least 49 people died in the massive fire that took a full 29 hours to be brought under control. Three others died after jumping off the six-storey factory to escape the flames, taking the death toll to 52.
“We have recovered many burnt bodies from different places, but not like the ones we have seen here,” Md Mahbub Hossain, a firefighter stationed at Araihazar Fire Service and Civil Defence, told Dhaka Tribune on Saturday.
He said the charred bones of corpses were scattered all across the floor, with piles of bodies in some places.
“The heads of many of the deceased had separated from their charred bodies. They looked like balls on the floor.”
Another fireman, Sharif, said he had never seen such badly burned bodies in his entire life.
“There is no way to identify the bodies without DNA profiling,” he added.
Only teeth and bones for DNA samples
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Relatives of missing workers have been frantically rushing from hospital to hospital in the search for their loved ones over the past three days. Many have provided DNA samples to help with the identification process.
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Special Superintendent of Police Rumana Akhter said: “We have 48 bodies till now that are unidentified. We have collected samples from their teeth and bones to do the DNA tests, because the other body parts are totally burnt.
“Since we have to use DNA samples from teeth and bones, it will take some time to get the results. We are hopeful of getting the results in 21 days,” she added.
The CID official further said that blood samples had been collected from 40 groups of relatives of the missing workers. The local administration has drawn up a list of 44 missing workers based on statements from their relatives.
At the time of the filing of this report on Saturday, 15 of the bodies were at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College morgue, eight at the emergency department morgue of Dhaka Medical College (DMC), and 25 at the DMC forensics morgue.
Several relatives of missing workers claim the vast majority of the deaths in the fire could have been avoided if the door to a stairway of the factory had been unlocked.
Salma Begum, sister of missing worker and mother of two Nazma Begum, told Dhaka Tribune: “If the supervisor had opened the gates on time, my sister could have survived. Instead, he said that ‘the fire will be extinguished soon, go work’ and locked the gate.”
Mosalin was one of the workers who died after jumping from the factory to escape the flames.
His relative Lavlu said: “Factory officials locked the gate, and that is why so many people died. Mosalin would not have had to jump if the gates were unlocked.”
Minowara, sister-in-law of fire victim Firoza Begum, said: “Firoza called my brother around 5pm on Thursday and pleaded with him to save her.
“‘Please save me. Our factory is on fire. I do not want to die. I cannot get out.’ These were Firoza’s last words to her family,” Minowara added.
The Home Ministry, Narayanganj district administration and several law enforcement agencies have formed probe bodies to investigate the cause of the fire.