AFTER RANA PLAZA
The heat towards the end of April is almost unbearable. Still, crowds have gathered on the site where Rana Plaza used to be, with not a cloud in sight. Family members carry framed photos of their missing sons and daughters; street kids dig through the rubble searching for pieces of iron and things they can sell.
Bangladesh’s garment industry has grown for each year since it was established in the 1980s, and today it makes for ¾ of the country’s total exports. After China, Bangladesh produces more clothes than any other place in the world. Sweden, like most other countries in the West, is a top consumer. In 2012 and 2013, we imported clothes with the tag “Made in Bangladesh” for 4,5 billion SEK.
The Rana Plaza collapse was not a singular event but one among many. Fires, workplace accidents – no one knows exactly how many people have died in all, but incidents are reported (or not reported) each year in the country’s 5 600 factories.
Only a short rickshaw ride away from the site is CRP, a big hospital and the only physiotherapy clinic in Bangladesh. This is where many victims were rushed after the collapse – and this is where many still remain.
At the far end of the hospital area, nearby the workshop making artificial arms and legs, sit rows of simple brick buildings. Families stay here to get accustomed to life with their new body parts, or crutches and wheelchairs, before moving back to their homes again. 24-year-old Rihanna, who only uses her first name, used to work on the seventh floor of Rana Plaza. She walks with careful steps, one step at the time, ducking for colorful scarves and tunics hanging to dry. Her right leg is the same she always had; the left one is made here at CRP, replacing the one she lost in the collapse.
“They had sent us home the day before because they noticed cracks in the building. But then in morning they said everything was fine, that it was safe to go in. That we wouldn’t get paid otherwise. So we went in. Then, it all collapsed. Everything went dark and incredibly hot. A wall fell down on my leg and crushed it.”
Back at the site, evening is about to fall. The crowds are still there, the heat remains intense. The walls are covered with posters, large ones, printed for this occasion. A large banner, fastened with ropes, says: “Rana Plaza. Never again”.