Survivor of Dhaka factory collapse ‘recovering well’

Reshma Begum (19) was pulled from rubble after being trapped for 17 days

Reshma Begum (19) rescued from the rubble of the Rana Plaza building 17 days after the building collapsed, lies on a bed at Savar Combined Military Hospital in Savar. Photograph: Andrew Biraj/Reuters

Reshma Begum (19) rescued from the rubble of the Rana Plaza building 17 days after the building collapsed, lies on a bed at Savar Combined Military Hospital in Savar. Photograph: Andrew Biraj/Reuters

Sun, May 12, 2013, 13:23

A seamstress who survived 17 days before being rescued from a collapsed clothes factory building outside Bangladesh’s capital is said to be making a good recovery in hospital.

Reshma Begum was panicked, dehydrated and suffering from insomnia, but was in a generally good condition, her doctors said.

The rescue of Ms Begum (19) brought a boost to the workers who had spent more than two weeks pulling decaying bodies from the rubble in Dhaka.

Yesterday they resumed their grim recovery task as the death toll surpassed 1,100 in the world’s worst garment industry disaster.

“We will not leave the operation until the last dead body and living person is found,” said Maj Gen Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the head of the local military units in charge of rescue operations.

Lt Col Azizur Rahman, a doctor at the military hospital where Ms Begum is being treated, said she was exhausted and badly stressed when she was brought in an ambulance on Friday afternoon.

She suffered scratches, but no major injuries, he said. Her kidneys were functioning at less than 45 per cent and she had insomnia.

“She is panicked, sometimes she holds nurses’ hands tight,” he said.

Doctors were giving her semi-solid food and saline for her dehydration. They advised complete rest, and barred reporters from speaking to her for fear their questions would worsen her fragile psychological state.

“We don’t want those memories to haunt her now, so we are not allowing anybody to ask her anything,” Lt Col Rahman said, adding that a team of psychiatrists would examine her.

Ms Begum spent 17 days in a room-like area under the rubble high enough for her to stand, surviving on dried food, bottled water and rainwater, Maj Gen Suhrawardy said.

She got fresh air from some of the 27 air holes that rescuers had dug in the rubble and even found cartons of dresses inside and was able to change her clothes, Maj Gen Suhrawardy said.

“Her return is amazing, miraculous,” he said.Ms Begum’s family said they — like many other families of workers still missing — had been losing hope of finding her alive.

Her brother Zayed Islam said her relatives initially camped out at the collapse site and then moved to the hospital in the first days after the disaster, hoping to find her among the injured. Eventually they moved to the school ground that had been turned into a makeshift morgue, so they could try to find her among the dead bodies.

Then, on Friday, they were told to come back to the hospital: she was alive.

“I just could not believe it when I saw her in the hospital,” her mother, Zobeda Begum, said through tears. “My daughter has come back to me. God, you are merciful and I don’t have anything else to ask for from you.”

Mr Islam said he fainted when he saw her.“When I regained my senses, Reshma told me, ‘Brother, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me’,” he said.

Ms Begum moved to Dhaka more two years ago to get a job in the garment industry and help her poor family, Mr Islam said. She married a year ago, but her husband left her three months ago.

Baby Moudud, an MP who rushed to the hospital with prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday, said Ms Begum appeared traumatised but mentally strong.

She said Ms Hasina promised that the government would take care of her and make sure she got another job.

Ms Hasina’s government has come under criticism for its lax oversight over the powerful garment industry.More than 2,500 people were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the April 24th disaster, but until Friday crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive before they heard Ms Begum banging and saw a pipe shaking.

They immediately stopped the heavy machinery clearing the rubble and used hacksaws and other small tools to free her.

Before Friday, the last survivor was found on April 28th, and even her story ended tragically. As workers tried to free Shahina Akter, a fire broke out and she died of smoke inhalation.

Officials said yesterday that 1,115 bodies had been recovered from the ruins of the fallen Rana Plaza building, which housed five clothes factories employing thousands of workers. They said 780 bodies had been handed over to families.

The disaster has raised alarm about the often deadly working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the world.

Officials say the owner of Rana Plaza illegally added three floors and allowed five factories in the building 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.


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