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.
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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 had 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, Friday, they were told to come back to the hospital — she was alive.Skip to next paragraph
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"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."
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.
Begum moved to Dhaka 2 1/2 years ago to get a job in the garment industry and help her poor family, Islam said. She married a year ago, but her husband left her three months ago, he said.
Baby Moudud, a member of Parliament who rushed to the hospital Friday with Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, said Begum appeared traumatized but mentally strong. Hasina promised the government would take care of her and make sure she gets another job, Moudud said. 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 24 disaster, but until Friday, crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive before they heard 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 had been found April 28, 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 Saturday that 1,115 bodies had been recovered from the ruins of the fallen building, which housed five garment 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 $20 billion garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the globe.
Officials say the owner of the Rana Plaza building illegally added three floors and allowed five garment 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.