Bangladesh miracle survivor 'drank rainwater': army
Bangladeshi officials gave the first account today of how a "miracle" survivor pulled from a collapsed building managed to emerge alive 17 days after the disaster and hailed her indomitable spirit.world Updated: May 11, 2013 19:25 IST
Bangladeshi officials gave the first account Saturday of how a "miracle" survivor pulled from a collapsed building managed to emerge alive 17 days after the disaster and hailed her indomitable spirit.
Reshma, 18, a seamstress who was dug out from rubble of the garment factory Friday, drank rainwater and had found lunch boxes of coworkers "from which she got some food", Major General Chowdhury Hassan Suhrawardy told a news conference.
"She has made history. She is an example not only for Bangladesh but also for the world," Suhrawardy told reporters as the death toll from the impoverished nation's worst industrial accident hit 1,110.
The painfully thin woman, who TV footage showed smiling shyly from her hospital intensive care bed, had been "trapped in a place spacious enough for her to crawl comfortably", said Suhrawardy, who has headed the giant relief effort.
Reshma was wearing a fresh dress when she was rescued taken from a box of clothes she found and had cut her hair with a pair of scissors "because it is so hot under the rubble", he said.
But "she still can't sleep well. She gets frightened every now and then and the nurse has to hold her hand to comfort her", he added.
Colonel Azizur Rahman, who leads the medical team looking after Reshma, told reporters she suffered "some metabolical changes" due to malnutrition and her kidney function level dropped to 40%.
"She is improving" and is now eating rice and semi-solid food, he added.
Rescuers found her after long abandoning hope of locating more survivors. They were stunned to hear a woman's voice calling for help.
She was freed in a 45-minute operation aired live on television and watched by crowds at the scene who cried "Allahu Akbar" -- "God is great" -- as she was pulled from the wreckage.
"We first saw a pipe moving. We removed some gravel and concrete. We found her standing," Major Moazzem, who goes by one name, told AFP.
"She told us: 'My name is Reshma, please save me, please save me brother'," Jamil Ahmed, another rescuer, recounted.
"I called but nobody heard me. I heard noises, but nobody listened to me," she told Somoy TV later in an interview.
Her family, from a remote northern village, call her survival a "miracle".
"We had lost all hope of finding her alive. We visited every hospital... the mortuaries and checked every body," Reshma's brother, Zahidul Islam, told AFP.
Suhrawardy told reporters the search for bodies would continue until the last missing person was accounted for.
"We'll end the search only when there aren't any more bodies under the rubble," he said, as cranes and bulldozers sliced through the concrete mountain.
More than 3,000 workers were on shift when the building caved in, most earning around $40 a month to make clothing for Western brands such as Britain's Primark and Italy's Benetton.
A preliminary government probe blamed vibrations from four giant generators on the upper floors for triggering the collapse. Police have arrested 12 people including the plaza's owner and four factory bosses over the tragedy.
Reshma's survival is one of the most remarkable of recent years, though not a record.
In Pakistan, in 2005, a 40-year-old woman was rescued from the ruins of her house in Kashmir two months after an earthquake. A 27-year-old man spent 27 days buried under the rubble of the Haitian earthquake in 2010.
The rescue of Reshma has brought "renewed vigour" to the relief efforts, army rescue officer Major Delwar Hossain told AFP.
"We've got a new spirit. We're working extremely carefully in case we find another miraculous survivor."
First Published: May 11, 2013 19:16 IST