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Adventists respond to Bangladesh factory collapse disaster

On April 24, an eight-story commercial building known as Rana Plaza collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh, approximately 45 kilometers from the capital city of Dhaka. The building housed five garment factories, production lines, banks, and hundreds of shops. An estimated 3,500 people were in the building, the majority of whom were female factory workers under the age of 25. To date, approximately 400 bodies have been recovered, 2,444 people were rescued with injuries and hundreds are unaccounted for. Amidst the growing world-wide debate over factory conditions and clamor for reforms, Adventists continue to assist in the ongoing rescue efforts and are attempting to meet the needs of the affected families.

As soon as youth from the Dhaka Seventh-day Adventist church in the Mipur subdistrict heard about the disaster, a group of twelve immediately responded.  Ten of them are trained in disaster management with an emphasis on earthquake preparedness and potential building collapse situations. Once at the site, some of them entered the building through tunnels and holes and helped bring out 30 victims, four of them who were still alive.  During an April 26 Adventist Youth evening meeting, young people spontaneously collected Taka 12,100 (approximately $160 USD) for the victims. Another group of 125 young people including a girl from Dhaka SDA Church went there on Sabbath, April 27 to help the rescue team.  They assisted in pulling out three young ladies who were still alive but had been trapped inside the building. The group also recovered a number of dead bodies. In addition, they provided food and drink to some of the survivors including a lady who had been trapped for three days without food and water.

ADRA Bangladesh also responded promptly by providing oxygen tanks, masks, flashlights, hammers, shovels and other tools as preliminary assistance.  According to director Serpa Santana Landerson,  ADRA Bangladesh is planning to donate cash to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund after committee approval is received.

In terms of Adventists affected by the disaster, it is difficult to determine the extent at this point. However, reports have confirmed that at least one Adventist, a boy named Bitu Baroi who was working in one of the garment factories there, is still missing. His mother works at Pollywog, an Adventist-sponsored handicraft industry located on the Bangladesh Adventist Union Mission (BAUM) campus.

The garment industry is a major foreign currency earner in Bangladesh and the biggest industry in the country. Bangladesh is the second largest garment exporter country in the world, just next to China.  Year export earning is close to twenty US Dollars to the European countries, Americas, and Australia. There are more than five thousand such factories in Bangladesh, mainly in Dhaka and Chittagong regions.  The said number is only the registered factories with BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporting Association) and there are hundreds which are not under this umbrella. There are about six million factory workers, mostly women, employed directly in this industry. [Benjamin Raksham/AND]

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