Our impact in Bangladesh

A man who helped save thousands of lives after a building collapsed has ensured his community is trained to deal with future disasters.

On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory, at Savar, central Bangladsh, collapsed, trapping 5,000 people under rubble. Untrained volunteers from the community risked their lives and saved 3862 people (2,500 of whom were injured).

But Shahadat Hussein, who took part in the rescue operation, believed more could be done to ensure people survived disaster. He said: ‘It was not a proper search and rescue mission, because we just tried to save lives. We did not maintain any sort of safety measures, and we didn’t have the right tools and materials. We just used whatever was to hand.’  And Shahadat had first-hand experience of how a little knowledge could have saved a life.

He explained: ‘One of the volunteers called over to us. He had tried to lift a concrete beam which had fallen on a woman, but he could not. We had some oxygen we were using to help people breathe, and we gave some to the woman, Shahina.

‘But because we could not move the beam, we used an angle-cutter to try to rescue her. We did not realise what would happen. The cutter created so many sparks, and because of the oxygen, a fire started. It killed Shahina. When I think of how she died, it still causes me pain.'

Shahadat vowed to make sure his community need never be in the same situation again. He said: ‘This kind of accident could happen at any time in our community, because we don’t follow proper rules to build structures. We cannot afford to lose so many lives again.’

Shahadat e-mailed us at RedR UK to request that we train him and other members of his community. After a successful appeal for funds, we delivered essential search and rescue, and disaster preparedness training.

We trained people working for local aid organisations, and volunteers who were involved in the rescue – including Shahadat. Our training means that his community is prepared for the next disaster, and will be able to respond more effectively.

But that’s not all: as well as covering emergencies arising from collapsed buildings, the training also prepared the community to respond to cyclone and floods. Shahadat said: ‘Right now, I know how to handle a situation. It would be a totally different scenario.’

Shahadat helped save thousands of lives when Rana Plaza fell. Thanks to his continued effort, his community is now better placed than ever to ensure it is not defeated by disaster.