Adventists respond to disaster in Bangladesh


Savar, Bangladesh

Seventh-day Adventists were some of the first responders to a commercial factory building collapse in Savar, Bangladesh, that has captured international media attention and sparked debate over building standards.

Another group of 125 Adventist young people went to the disaster site on Saturday, April 27 to assist rescue teams.

Rescuers work on Saturday, April 27 to recover survivors of the factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh. Adventist workers wore orange uniforms. [Photos courtesy: Flabian Shaikat Sikder]

Ten Adventist youth trained in earthquake preparedness and potential building collapse situations were some of the first on site after the Wednesday, April 24 collapse and helped bring out 30 victims, four of whom were still alive.

Another group of 125 Adventist young people went to the disaster site on Saturday, April 27 to assist rescue teams. The group helped recover three women as well as several bodies. They also provided food and water to survivors.

The eight-story commercial building is known as Rana Plaza and is located approximately 45 kilometers from the capital city of Dhaka.

The building housed five garment factories, production lines, banks and hundreds of shops. An estimated 3500 people were in the building at the time of the collapse, the majority of whom were female factory workers under the age of 25. To date, approximately 400 bodies have been recovered and 2444 injured people have been rescued, but hundreds are still unaccounted for. 

Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Bangladesh also responded promptly by providing oxygen tanks, masks, flashlights, hammers, shovels and other tools as preliminary assistance. According to director Serpa Santana Landerson, ADRA Bangladesh is planning to donate cash to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund after committee approval is received.

Adventist Church member Thais Landerson is interviewed on site of the factory collapse. She is the daughter of Serpa Santana Landerson, who serves as country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for Bangladesh.

During an April 26 Adventist Youth evening meeting, young people spontaneously collected Taka 12,100 (approximately US$160) for the victims.

Reports have confirmed that at least one Adventist, a boy named Bitu Baroi, who was working in one of the garment factories, is still missing. His mother works at Pollywog, an Adventist-sponsored handicraft industry located on the Adventist Church’s Bangladesh Adventist Union Mission campus.

The disaster area is about 20 kilometres from the union office.

The garment industry is a major foreign currency earner in Bangladesh and the biggest industry in the country. Bangladesh is the second largest garment exporter country in the world after China. There are more than 5000 such factories in Bangladesh, mainly in Dhaka and Chittagong regions. And that number only counts factories registered with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporting Association. There are hundreds more not under this umbrella.

There are about six million factory workers, mostly women, employed directly in this industry.