Woman trapped 17 days in Bangladesh rubble 'never dreamed' she’d escape
Published Friday, May 10, 2013 6:16AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 10, 2013 2:11PM EDT
A Bangladeshi garment worker pulled from the wreckage of a collapsed building said she survived her 17-day ordeal by eating dried food and drinking water she had nearby, but said she "never dreamed" she would escape alive.
Reshma Begum, a seamstress who worked at the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, was rescued Friday. It had been 12 days since the last survivor was pulled from the rubble, and rescue workers had shifted their efforts to the recovery of bodies, rather than rescue.
In remarks to the private Somoy TV and reported by The Associated Press, Reshma said she began to hear people moving on the surface several days ago.
"I heard voices of the rescue workers for the past several days. I kept hitting the wreckage with sticks and rods just to attract their attention," she said from a hospital bed, as hospital staff gave her saline and checked her condition.
"No one heard me. It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I'd see the daylight again."
She said she found dried food which lasted for 15 days of her ordeal. But for the last two days she only had water left.
"I used to drink only a limited quantity of water to save it. I had some bottles of water around me," she said.
Abdur Razzak, a warrant officer with the military's engineering department who first spotted a hand moving in the wreckage, said she had no injuries when she was freed -- and was even able to walk.
Though Reshma told rescuers there were no other survivors near her, they renewed efforts to comb through the wreckage Friday, hoping to find anyone else still 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. "We will continue our search until a survivor or a dead body is there."
Reshma said she banged a steel pipe in order to get the attention of rescuers as they moved close to the area with bulldozers and cranes.
Heavy equipment was immediately halted and crews then used handsaws to cut through the tangled wreckage to reach the woman while hundreds of people gathered around to pray for her safety. It took about 40 minutes to free her from the rubble.
"Allah, 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."
The eight-storey factory housed a number of companies that produced clothing -- much of it destined for Western markets. Joe Fresh, which has clothing stores operated in Canada by in Loblaw Co., used the factory to produce many of its garments.
The unexpected good news came as the number of known dead surpassed 1,000, making it one of the worst industrial tragedies ever.
The tragedy in Bangladesh has caused some companies to re-examine the checks and balances they use to ensure workers are treated fairly and provided with safe working conditions in overseas factories. While many companies carry out factory audits on an annual or semi-annual basis, few inspect for structural inadequacies in the buildings where the factories operate.
Last week, Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston and Joe Fresh founder Joe Mimran vowed that audits will now include inspections of the factory buildings themselves.
They made the promise Thursday at a news conference in Toronto ahead of the company's annual general meeting.
“We must do a much better job of ensuring the safety of workers producing our products in Bangladesh and around the world,” Mimran said.