N’ganj Factory Fire: All hope lost for 24 families
The bodies of 24 of the workers who died in the Hashem Foods factory fire last month were handed over to their families yesterday.
Up until the phone calls yesterday, many of the families had some flickering hope that perhaps their loved one just went missing and was admitted to a hospital somewhere and they will eventually be found.
"I heard the DNA matching is done... is Shantamoni truly dead then?" asked the uncle of the 12-year-old who used to pack lollipops in the factory.
Shantamoni is not just dead, her body was so charred that she was one of three dead bodies whose bone samples had to be tested for DNA. The other two are 16-year-old Munna and 15-year-old Fatema.
The bone samples are tested when the tissue collected from the body is too damaged, said Rumana Akter, special superintendent of the forensic department of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
The rest of the 45 bodies, who were all burned alive after being trapped on the third floor of the six-storey building with its only exit locked, were identified by way of their tissue samples.
The others whose bodies were handed over yesterday include Ayat Hossain, 19; Md Naim Islam, Nusrat Jahan Tuktuki, Hima Akhter, 16; Mosammat Shagarika Shaila, Khadeja Akhter, 16; Md Ali, Takia Akter, 14; Shahana Akter, 18; Mitu Akhter, Jahanara, 38; Fatzana, 14; Nazma Khatun, Ishrat Jahan Tuli, Nazma Begum, 35; Md Rashed, 25; Md Rakib Hossain, Feroza, 36; Md Tarek Zia, 15; Md Ripon Miah, 18; Mosammat Shahana Akter and Riya Akter, 30.
Each of the coffins was marked with a placard pointing out which way was the head of the body for ease of burial.
"We had the bodies washed and wrapped in burial cloth because the families would not have been able to process such burnt bodies. They won't be able to unwrap the bodies, and during burial, the head has to face west, so we marked out the head," said a CID official.
As thoughtful as that was, it is also a grim reminder of the kind of death that they faced.
Mostafizur Rahman, the joint inspector general of the health department at the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments, said they have been able to identify 38 of the injured workers, of whom two are still hospitalised.
The coffins were handed over from the Dhaka Medical College Hospital morgue. Sajeeb Group, which owned the Hashem foods factory, funded ambulances for the families to carry the dead back to their village homes.
As every coffin was wheeled into the ambulances, officials of Sajeeb Group ran after the bodies with cans of air fresheners. They were spraying the air around and giving the families air fresheners for use in the journey ahead.
But perhaps stench is a subjective sensation.
Ripon's mother definitely did not seem to notice the stench as she launched herself at the coffin of her son and yanked open the lid.
"My son was in class-11. I was a garments worker and his father went missing when he was little. When he finished class 10, he told me I need not work anymore and that he would take a job."
Since the college was closed, he joined the factory five months back, she said.
The dead were given Tk 25,000 for funeral costs by the Narayanganj district magistrate's office.
A total of 51 died in the fire incident at the factory in Narayanganj on July 8. Three died after jumping off the six-storey factory.