On 24 April, the eight storey high Rana Plaza building collapsed in Savar Bangladesh - killing over 1100 workers trapped within it. Here are a couple of my articles on one extraordinary man (and there were others), who was a garment worker from a building adjacent to Rana Plaza, who ran out on hearing the sound of the collapse and immediately started to help rescue people from the wreckage.
New Age: A true Hero (April 28, 2013)
Amongst the despair of the tangled concrete slabs that was once Rana Plaza, there are rescuers about whom the description of hero is no exaggeration.Daily Telegraph: £45-a-month hero amputated girl's hand to save her from factory carnage
One such person is Didar Hossain.
Didar is an apparel worker employed at the factory Al Muslim next to the eight-floor Rana Plaza which on Wednesday morning at collapsed to the ground.
‘I heard a big noise from outside and we looked out and saw lots of dust,’ he told New Age. ‘We rushed out of the building. Initially, the gatekeeper would not allow us out. So we had to push the man aside.’
Faced with knowing that under the wreckage of Rana Plaza there were people just like him, Didar decided that he could be no spectator.
‘I could see that there was a narrow tunnel into the building. Everyone warned me not to go in as the building could collapse even further. I was scared to go in but I knew that if I saved one person that would be worth it,’ he said
‘There were 17 men, and I brought them out one by one. There were also four dead people. The tunnel was initially very narrow but I took apart some of the machinery and it made it a bit wider. It took me nine hours to get them out, the whole day I was working. I tied cloth around the men and dragged them out slowly one by one.’
New Age met Didar on Friday whilst interviewing 16-year-old Aanna Akhter who was in the post-operative ward of Enam Hospital at Savar. Anna had just finished telling how after more than 24 hours under the rubble in order to come out alive from the wreckage, her hand had to be amputated.
Didar was visiting Anna as he was the man who amputated her arm and was checking up on how she was.
On Thursday morning after having rescued the 17 men, Didar carried on trying to find ways into the demolished building
‘I had gone further into the building, looking for other ways to find people inside and I was calling out whether there was anyone here and then I heard a woman’s voice asking for help,’ he said, explaining how he found Aanna.
‘There were two dead bodies beside Aanna. I tried to see whether it was possible to rescue her without chopping off her hand, by moving the machinery but I was scared that if I moved any of the machinery the roof may collapse further,’ Dildar continued.
‘So I told her that the only way I can get you out is to chop your hand of, and she agreed. ‘I went out and told the doctor the situation.’
The doctor, however, did not dare to enter the concrete tunnels within the building.
‘He was too scared to go in and do it himself as he thought that the building could collapse any minute. So he told me how to do it. He gave me an injection and a surgical knife. I went back in and gave her the injection and started cutting. It took 10 minutes. It was hard. I was weeping and Anna was weeping. It hurt her a lot.’
Aanna’s rescue took four hours. It was about 2:00pm when she came out.
However, this was not the end of Didar’s heroism.
‘Later that day at a different part of the building, I found two men who had their legs stuck. I had to tell both of them that the only way I could rescue them was by cutting their legs off. They both agreed,’ he said.
‘One of the men’s legs was almost already severed. So, in fact, I could remove the leg tearing with my hands. In the other case, I used a surgical knife — again the doctor said that he was too scared to go down and do it himself. The knife was much sharper this time.’
They were, he said, both taken to Dhaka College Medical Hospital.
Since New Age met Didar on Friday, he has continued to undertake heroic acts and was involved with others in the rescue early Saturday morning of 40 more workers.
‘I am feeling weak. I have not had much sleep,’ he told New Age later on Saturday on the phone from the Rana Plaza site where despite his exhaustion he expects to spend another night seeking more survivors of the country’s worst industrial disaster.
Didar Hossain arrived for a shift to make clothes for the Western high street on Wednesday. By Friday night he was hailed as a hero after rescuing 30 people from the scene of Bangladesh’s worst industrial accident.
At its most extreme, his heroics involved amputating the hand of a young girl to salvage her from the wreckage of the Rana Plaza, the eight-storey Dhaka factory building in Bangladesh which collapsed killing more than 300.
Aanna Akhtar, the young girl he saved told The Daily Telegraph she knows she is one of the lucky ones.
More than 300 have now been confirmed dead and at least 400 more are still missing.
Ms Akhtar said she had started a job just three weeks ago making trouser pockets on the sixth floor, where New Wave Style Ltd makes cheap clothes for chain stores like Primark and Bonmarche.
“I could not get it out," she said from her bed at Enam Medical College Hospital. "There were a lot of people with me at first. Many were saved because the roof rested on the machines. We all shouted for help.
"There were about ten of us together. Many of the other people were able to escape. The men who left said that they would get someone to help me, but no-one came. I shouted for help, and I wept and wept. I thought I wouldn’t get out alive. I spent the whole night there inside the building by myself. I was very scared.
"Beside me was the dead body of the colleague I worked with, I could see the blood coming out of her,”
She spent the night contorted into a crouching position with her arm aloft and hand trapped. In the morning, as her hopes of survival began to fade, she heard Didar Hossain calling out through the dark crevices. “I shouted back ’please help me brother’. He told me he could only help me if he cut off my hand and I let him. He then went out and came back with a knife and an injection. I was given an injection first. He had to chop of my hand to get me out,” she said.
Bangladeshi volunteers and rescue workers are pictured at the scene of the collapse (AFP)
Mr Hossain, 28, who is married with two young children, had been working as a £45 a week machine operator at the al-Muslim factory opposite, when the Rana Plaza building collapsed. He ran out immediately, quickly found a tunnel inside the rubble, and began searching for survivors.
Over the next nine hours, he pulled 17 men to safety and retrieved four of the dead, he said. It was not until the following morning that he heard Aanna Akhtar’s cry for help.
“I heard a woman’s voice asking for help at about 10 am. I found her. There were two dead bodies beside her. I tried to see whether it was possible to rescue her without chopping off her hand, by moving the machinery, but I was scared that if I moved any of the machinery the roof may collapse further. So I told her that the only way I can get you out is to chop off your hand and she agreed,” he explained.
He went back outside ask a doctor, who was too afraid to enter the rubble, for his advice. He returned with an injection and a surgical knife, he said, and as he carried out the surgery, both he and his patient cried. “I went back in and gave her the injection and started cutting. The knife did not seem to be that sharp. It was hard. I was weeping and Aanna was weeping. It hurt her a lot. The whole rescue took 4 hours,” he said.
He had been scared to go into the debris at first, he said, but felt compelled. “I could see that there was a narrow tunnel into the building.
Everyone warned me not to go in, as the building could collapse even further. I was scared to go in, but I knew that if I saved one person that would be worth it,” he said.
Aanna Hossain was one of 36 people he had rescued and yesterday, as they recalled their tearful ordeal, she said his bravery had saved her life. “I feel terrible about my hand, but I am still alive,” she said.