World headlines for days now have been about the total collapse of a large eight story factory building. Nobody following the news knows where its location of the Dhaka suburb of Ashulia is, or even where the country of Bangladesh is. All we know is that they are foreigners faced by a disaster – an avoidable disaster obviously.
There was no great earthquake here, no massive tsunami here, no devastating hurricane here, no stupendous meteor strike here, no overwhelming river flood here, no terrifying volcano eruption here, in other words there was no substantial natural disaster – just a ANOTHER dreadful manmade one (but at least not a bomb this time).
Six days have been spent on rescuing the poor souls encased in the rubble – men women and children. Now hope has been abandoned – there are no more cries, no more people to be saved they say. Work in removing the collapsed materials will clearly continue of course and more bodies will be found, some remains will never be found (if there is a miracle another human being will beat the odds and be pulled out alive).
What do we know? That from the thousands there were many lucky survivors (numerous injured though). That the firemen, and the military, and all the other rescuers, courageously toiled day and night to save their countrymen and women. That four or five hundred people will have nevertheless died in this horrible incident.
But who really killed them? Who in truth is responsible? Is murder too strong a word here?
The easy target for blame is the building owner and his family and associates – so they are being blamed and overwhelmed immediately (and rightly so). But surely they don’t stand alone? What about those that designed the building, those who built it, those who provided substandard materials (always a danger in such countries), those who turned a blind eye (and accepted their bribes) in what is being described now as an illegal construction, those who didn’t maintain the construction, those in the city who didn’t do building safety checks, those owners and managers in the five sweatshop garments factories who forced their own underprivileged employees to work and risk their lives when structural problems arose, those retailers who commissioned the production of garments and drove the price down to shamefully low levels and took no responsibility for the effect that had, those who bought the garments in the UK or other Western store and didn’t give a dam about the workers producing them (no room or concern for fair trade where clothes are cheap is there?), those trash in the Bangladesh government who were negligent in their duties to their own people and got rich in the process?
Are they all accountable? Who committed the greatest crime? Will they pay the penalty? Well, wait and see, but you can expect a few low level individuals to be pilloried and the biggest culprits to get away scot free to enjoy their ill gotten gains with their families (they won’t even lose any sleep on the part they played in this huge loss of life).
Another crying shame in this situation (when the eyes of the World were on it) is that the powers that be in Bangladesh letdown the trapped souls by the sheer arrogance of not accepting help from the international rescue teams. These teams have not only unquestionably experience in dealing practically with such building collapses but they also have specialist equipment that is not known about or even available to standard local resources.
The decision to undertake the rescues with only available facilities and high levels of manpower alone, and ignore the expertise of the help freely offered was foolhardy. When the first and easiest stage of the rescue exercise had been completed the international teams’ help would have saved much time and more lives – those who made that call should not be congratulating themselves on lives saved, but they should reflect on how many of the dead victims could have been saved! Sad, sad sad.