Rescuers have started using heavy equipment to remove the ruins of Rana Plaza as no more traces of life were noticed under the concrete ruins 110 hours on.
The move effectively signals the end of the search for survivors under the blocks of concrete and steel of the nine-storey building.
Two hydraulic cranes started to work at around 11.30pm Sunday with one of them first taking out a pillar.
Although hydraulic cranes and bulldozers to bore a hole from the top of the building were brought to the site a few days ago, authorities had kept them at bay saying there top priority was to rescue people alive.
The rescuers were trying to pull out an woman alive until 10pm. But suddenly a fire broke out at one of the tunnels drilled through the debris of the building injuring three fire fighters. The woman could not be saved either.
”We could not save the woman….She was Shahina and hailed from Kustia,” one of the injured fire fighters told reporters, his voice cracking.
The massive salvage mission kicked off soon after that.
Army officials then took the journalists behind the building covering some 35,000 square feet area and said they had already started the “second phase of the rescue mission”.
”We have made the move assuming that none of those still trapped inside is alive,” Brigadier General Ajmal Kabir, leading this operation, said.
He said they were working with extra care and added “We are taking time to move ahead. The work will progress slowly.”
Earlier, everyone including journalists was asked to evacuate the site. Only the army and Fire Service and Civil Defence members were present there.
These equipment will also drill a central hole from the top to look for dead bodies.
Rescuers had been manually shifting concrete blocks with the help of light equipment to claw through the remnants for survivors.
General Officer Commanding Maj Gen Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy of Bangladesh Army’s 9th Infantry Division, who is coordinating the salvage operations, had said on Sunday morning heavy machines would be pressed in service to clear the wreckage if no traces of people being alive in amidst the riblle were there.
Soon after his comment, five people were rescued from under the pile of rubbles delaying the use of machinery.
Rescue workers had continued their search operation using hand-held machines like cutters, pick axels, shovels and drills to dig tunnels or foxholes through the fallen structure throughout the day.
They had been seen slowly moving out from the wreckage site. A hydraulic crane, dozers and loaders were stationed in front of the collapsed building.
Maj Gen Suhrawardy tried to justify the use of heavy machines at a press briefing held in the morning.
“We had prioritised the lives trapped under there for the past few days. But it is difficult to continue working manually at this stage of the rescue operation. So we wish to use some technology to aid the manual work.”
The chief representative of Bangladesh Air Force in the rescue mission, Flight Lieutenant Sanjib Saha, said the rescue team will soon use bulldozers, cranes, forklifts and excavators.
Cranes and forklifts will be used to remove heavy pieces of concrete from the site.
Excavators and bulldozers will also be used to remove the debris. The Army has several loaders and trucks on standby to take away the bricks and concrete.
Besides the Army, several private companies have provided cranes, bulldozers and loaders along with other machinery.
Rana Plaza came crushing down on Wednesday, burying thousands of garment owners working inside it. So far almost 2,433 people have been rescued.
Though it was not clear exactly how many people were inside the building when it collapsed, an estimate put the figure to be around 3,500.