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Bangladeshi survivor recovering after 17 days trapped in rubble

19-year-old Reshma Begum survived for over two weeks inside a collapsed garment factory that killed over 1,100 people.

By Farid Hossain and Julhas AlamThe Associated Press / May 11, 2013

Cranes work to clear rubble from the ruins of a collapsed garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh.

A.M. Ahad/AP

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A seamstress who survived 17 days before being rescued from a collapsed garment factory building was panicked, dehydrated and suffering from insomnia as she recovered in a Bangladesh hospital Saturday, but was in generally good condition, according to her doctors.

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The rescue Friday of 19-year-old Reshma Begum brought a boost to the workers who had spent more than two weeks pulling decaying bodies from the rubble. By Saturday, they had resumed their grim task and 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 Begum is being treated, said she was exhausted and badly stressed when she was brought in an ambulance Friday afternoon. She suffered scratches, but no major injuries, he said. Her kidneys were functioning at less than 45 percent and she suffered 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 with 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," Rahman said, adding that a team of psychiatrists will be examining her.

Nevertheless, Suhrawardy said Begum told him she was fine.

Several photographers and cameramen were allowed to take pictures of Begum on Saturday afternoon as she lay on her hospital bed. Her head was covered in a neon green scarf, and she looked tired but alert. A white sheet covered her up to her neck. She was hooked to a monitor and had an intravenous drip in her left arm.

Begum had spent 17 days in a room-like area under the rubble high enough for her to stand, surviving on dried food, bottled water and rain water, Suhrawardy said. She got fresh air from some of the 27 air holes that rescuers had dug in the rubble. She even found cartons of dresses inside and was able to change her clothes, he said.

"Her return is amazing, miraculous," he said.

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