There are still many victims whose bodies were never found. At Rana Plaza ground zero people continue digging with bare hands even after a year, to find something, some forgotten traces among the ruins. There are dozens of people, relatives of the victims, who daily honor the memory of their loved ones, wandering around through the remains of the building.
[ EPF 2014 FINALIST ]
“Give me water, I beg you – give me water – I heard a girl near me imploring for water – We were a few blocked under the ruins. Some of us died, I’ve seen them dying. It had been about three days since the collapse, we were still trapped there. We didn’t know if we would all have died down there. Then I saw the girl trying to bite the neck of a corpse at her side, with her last strength, to suck and drink its blood. I have no words to describe what I saw. When I was rescued, after 4 days, she was dead”. Imran Hossain, 48, sewing operator for Phantom Apparels at the 3rd floor of Rana Plaza, tries to bring his mind back to last year, April 24th, when everything changed for him and nearly other 2500 survivors. One year has passed after the accident, but that hell keep reliving relentlessly in the memory of those who entered the building that black morning.
The trauma is overwhelming and is having a long-term impact on psychological well-being of these people. Still hundreds of people suffer from invisible, intangibles wounds. Many are no longer able to sleep at night nor can hear the slightest noise. Many others suffer panic attacks, memory losses, hear continuously mourning voices imploring help or even see dead workers laying beside them.
The tragedy and pain are far from over.
The intention of the project was hence to draw out the invisible, psychological aftermath of the disaster, focusing on PTSD affectd victims and their struggle to conduct a normal life. Portraits of survivors, relatives of the victims and rescue workers try to give shape to their fears and memories in a chaotic and disorienting merge of their own ghosts, derived from the trauma, which everyday and night threaten their minds.
One year after the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar, hundreds of workers and survivors are facing obstacles in obtaining, besides eonomic compensation, an adequate health care for issues related to their injuries and counseling for severe post-traumatic stress from the tragedy.
A woman holding her sister’s working card, ascertaining she was working at Rana Plaza. Her body hasn’t been found yet and her family hasn’t received the due compensation.
Few no-profit organizations as ActionAid are still following psychologically traumatized survivors, helping with group counceling and enlisting them to rehabilitation programs. However, the issue is still largely understimated. Most of the rescue teams involved in the first aids did not have any psychological experts, which might have led to a superficial and incorrect identification of traumatised people. Traumatised patients indeed, according to a study conducted by different NGOs, if not taken care on an emergency basis can end to exhibit longer term psychological disorders or psychosocial disabilities.
Aklima (28), a surviving victim in Bank Colony hit by a severe post-traumatic syndrome. She tells about her enormous difficulty in resuming a normal life, as she’s still suffering heavy psychological consequences. She is worried that what happened to her could also affect the her children well-being, and this does nothing but make her even more afraid.
Md. Rahat (26 yo) and Yasmin Akhtar (23 years old) are husband and wife. Both worked in the palace as sewing operators, respectively at the fifth and the fourth floor of Rana Plaza. The day of the collapse is still stuck in their memories. “Everything was vibrating, it was like a sudden earthquake, there was dust and smoke everywhere”, says Md. Rahat, who saved himself by jumping from the buildin while it was collapsing. His physical injuries are healing, but that accident still has a strong impact on his mental state.
A group of women in Bank Colony waiting their turn to talk with social operators, hoping they can help them at least to get some compensation. They all hand tighten their relative’s pictures and work card.
Among the victims of Rana Plaza should also count the many volunteers and rescue workers, who were reported to suffer post-trauma disorders and mental distress after giving first aid. Arif, Ikbal, Sayma, Biplob and other tell about hell-like scenes, all of them still hearing desperate voices of people imploring for help. Ikbal, as many others, underwent psychological therapy to remove his ghosts. “I remember a girl begging me to cut her leg and save her, she was shouting and I had no choice. I had to cut her leg personally. I can’t erase this from my mind, you can’t imagine what does it mean”.
Bank Colony is one of the poorest neighborhood in Savar from which came most of the workers employed at Rana Plaza. Many children are now forced to face a hard reality, having to grow up quickly, often leaving schools and get into work, as the tragedy left them without one or both their parents.
Memories of that 24th April flood the mind of many survivors like ghosts, it is really hard to drive them away. “When I try to fall asleep all those horrible pictures reappear before my eyes, I still hear voices calling me. Many times I relived the scene when that concrete beam collapsed on my back” (M. Rana, 27)
Sheuly, 26, after working several years as a housewife, has now been employed at GK Garments, a garment factory located in Savar district very close to Rana Plaza. She had to look for a job and a salary after she lost her husband, who was workink at Rana Plaza. She had been looking for him for days after the collapse, then one night – she remembers in tears – she dreamt about him calling her name. “Then I came to know he recommended a colleague laying behind him to tell me he was alive and he would have returned to me. My heart broke when they found his body lifeless after 17 days”. Now she tries not to think of anything but take home a salary to grant a future to her son, even if the thought that this might happen again never leaves her.
A man with his daughters wandering through the ruins of Rana Plaza, in Savar.
Massud Rana, 27, in a one-to-one talk with a NGO volunteer. He’s trying to get rid of his fears, as that of indoor spaces and multi-storey buildings.
Arati Bala Das, 18, is struggling to forget that day. She was extracted from the Rana building after three days, where a concrete pillar were blocking her. “It was dark all around, I couldn’t even breathe. I thought I would not be able to return alive”. The rescue workers managed to save her, but they had to amputate her leg. Arati’s life from that moment underwent a drastic change. She received some money compensation from the government, which also took charge of her artificial limb, but this doesn’t seem to relieve her pain. “I can no longer walk, nor run” -she says sadly, continuing to gaze upon her younger sister jumping into his father’s arms.
Aklima is mother of three children, one of wich is only few months old. She was working on the 7th floor of Rana Plaza, but she can not remember anything of that day. Her mind erased most of the things she experienced during the collapse and she’s still suffering severe mental problems. She confesses that many times she feels lost and bewildered, as her senses were no longer connected with reality. “But I want to get rid of my fears and all that nightmares. I just want a normal life for me and my children, I hope someone could give us help and no one will forget about our problems”, she says.
Jamila Begum lost her daughter Shayla (20 yo) in the collapse. She remembers Shayla did not take any lunch for that day. “I told her please take your lunch, but she replied not to worry. She told me she needed just to go and take her salary, then she would have returned homeÓ. She haven’t seen her again. Jamila since that day is suffering severe psychological pain and depression. She wanders bewildered every day, always ending up to Rana Plaza ground zero, where the body of Sheyla is still resting. She has been doing it for over one year, always clutching the Sheyla’s picture.
Annalisa Natali Murri (1982), freelance photographer, approached for the first time to photography at age 27, while attending Architectural and Urban Photography School in Valencia (Spain).
After completing her studies in engineering, soon she began to alternate her work to photography, focusing on personal research works and documentary projects, mainly inspired by social issues and their psychological consequences. Her works have been awarded in several international contests, including 70th and 71st POYi. In 2014 she was selected as an attendee for LOOKbetween mentorship program. She’s currently based in Bologna, Italy.
Annalisa Natali Murri