Rescue personnel carry stretchers with the remains of garment workers from the site of a collapsed building in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka. AFP photo
Rescue workers in Bangladesh said on Friday they found a female survivor buried amid the wreckage of a garment factory building that collapsed 17 days ago and killed more than 1,000.
Army officials ordered workers to stop clearing the site with bulldozers and cranes as they tried to free a woman they said might still be alive. A soldier at the scene said rescuers found a woman in the debris and she waved her hand in response to them.
"She has been located in a gap between a beam and a column. Her name is Reshmi. She may have reserves of water or have drunk some of the water that we've pumped into the building," Ahmed Ali told AFP.
Rescuers used a handsaw as well as welding and drilling equipment to try to cut through the iron rod and debris trapping her. They asked for a small oxygen cylinder to be brought to the site.
Hundreds of people, who had been engaged in the grim job of removing decomposing bodies from the site, raised their hands together to pray to Allah for the woman to be freed alive. A man on a loudspeaker led the supplicants: "Allah, you are the greatest, you can do anything. Please allow us all to rescue the survivor just found."
"We seek apology for our sins. Please pardon us, pardon the person found alive," he said.
Workers at the site had been clearing the rubble since the collapse April 24. More than 2,500 people were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. However, no survivors have been found in the wreckage since April 28.
The death toll from the disaster soared past 1,000 Friday, with authorities confirming 1,038 people were killed.
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.
(With AFP inputs)