May 10, 2013

Woman rescued after 17 days in Bangladesh rubble

Rescuers report that the seamstress survived on dried food and bottled water.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Reshma Begum lies on a stretcher after being pulled out of the rubble of a building that collapsed 17 days ago in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Rescuers work at the site of the eight-story Rana Plaza building that collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Thursday, May 9, 2013. The death toll from the collapse of the garment factory building passed 900 on Thursday even as a fire in an 11-story garment factory Wednesday night in Dhaka killed eight people, including a ruling-party politician and a top official in the country's powerful clothing manufacturers' trade group. (AP Photo/Ismail Ferdous)

AP

They ordered the cranes and bulldozers to stop immediately and used handsaws and welding and drilling equipment to cut through the iron rod and debris still trapping her. They gave her water, oxygen and saline as they worked.

Hundreds of people engaged in removing bodies from the site in recent days raised their hands together in prayer for her survival.

"God, you are the greatest, you can do anything. Please allow us all to rescue the survivor just found," said a man on a loudspeaker leading the supplicants. "We seek apology for our sins. Please pardon us, pardon the person found alive."

After 40 minutes, she was free.

"When we were able to reach there, we lifted her together with our hands and brought her out to put her on a stretcher. She was baffled as rescuers outside shouted 'God is great,'" said Hossain, one of her rescuers.

Soldiers and men in hard hats carried Begum on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance, which brought her to a military hospital. Her rescuers said she was in good condition, despite her ordeal. Razzak said she could even walk.

"She was fine, no injuries. She was just trapped. The space was wide," said Lt. Col. Moyeen, an army official at the scene who uses only one name.

Doctors at the hospital told Bangladeshi television that Begum was out of danger and that her kidney and liver function were fine.

Begum survived for more than two weeks in temperatures that touched the mid-30s C (mid-90s F).

"This is just a miracle, this is so pleasing!" said Razzak, the warrant officer.

Begum told her rescuers there were no more survivors in her area. Workers began tearing through the nearby rubble anyway, hoping to find another person alive.

"Reshma told me there were three others with her. They died. She did not see anybody else alive there," said Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the head of the local military units. The bodies were eventually recovered from another section of the building not far from Begum, he said.

Begum's sister Asma said she and her mother kept a vigil for the seamstress, who is from the rural Dinajpur district, 270 kilometers (170 miles) north of Dhaka. She said they had been losing hope amid the endless string of grim days, when scores of bodies and no survivors were removed from the rubble.

"We got her back just when we had lost all our hope to find her alive," she told Somoy TV. "God is so merciful."

The women rushed to the hospital to see her.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called Begum in the hospital, and the rescued woman began crying on the phone, Suhrawardy said. She told Hasina: "I am fine, please pray for me," he said.

Hasina, whose government has come under criticism for its lax oversight over the powerful garment industry, raced to the hospital by helicopter to meet her and congratulated the rescuers, officials said.

"This is an unbelievable feat," Hasina was quoted as saying by her assistant, Mahbubul Haque Shakil.

Begum lived in a rented house in this Dhaka suburb with her sister, who worked at a different garment factory

The death toll from the disaster soared past 1,000 on Friday, with officials confirming that 1,045 bodies had been recovered from the ruins of the fallen building, which had housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers.

The disaster has raised alarm about the often deadly working conditions in Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the globe.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, an army official overseeing the recovery work, said the bodies being recovered were badly decomposed and identification was difficult.

"We are working carefully," he said. "If we get any ID card or mobile phone with them, we can still identify them. Our sincere effort is to at least hand over the bodies to the families."

Brig. Gen. Azmal Kabir, a top official of the military's engineering section, said more than half of the estimated 7,000 tons of debris have been removed from the site but he did not know when the work would be finished.

Officials say the owner of Rana Plaza illegally added three floors and allowed the garment factories to install heavy machines and generators, even though the structure was not designed to support such equipment.

The owner and eight other people, including the owners of the garment factories, have been detained.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)