Eight months ago, the collapse of Rana Plaza became the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry, and many of the survivors still face an uncertain future. The shoddily constructed building pancaked down onto workers stitching clothes for global brands like Children’s Place, Benetton, C & A, Primark and many others. Workers earning as little as $38 a month were crushed under tons of falling concrete and steel. More than 1,100 people died and many others were injured or maimed.
But while the Rana Plaza disaster stirred an international outcry — and shamed many international clothing companies into pledging to help finance safety improvements in other Bangladeshi factories — the people most directly affected are still living without any guarantees of help or financial compensation.
Families who lost the wages of a son or daughter, husband or wife, are struggling. Those who lost limbs, like Ms. Khatun, are uncertain if they will ever walk or hold things again. And many volunteer rescuers like Mr. Forkan and survivors are struggling to deal with debilitating emotional scars.
Today, Rana Plaza no longer exists. It is a gaping hole in a busy commercial street, mostly cleared of rubble, where rainwater has pooled into a small black lake. But the vacant space still exerts the potency of memory and loss. Banners demanding justice face the street. Sit-ins or small protests are sometimes held. Leftist parties have built a crude statue of a hammer and sickle.
There are also people, often hovering near the periphery, clutching official documents, proof of their loss, evidence of their claims for compensation. In a poor country like Bangladesh, a job in a garment factory, despite the low wages, is a financial toehold for many families. A daughter is sent to work to support her parents, or to pay to school her siblings. Now it is the parents or siblings who come to the Rana Plaza site, trying to get attention and, they hope, financial assistance.
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