A young Bangladeshi woman who spent 17 days buried alive under a collapsed garment factory was rescued on Friday when astonished workmen heard a voice calling, “Save me, save me” from the rubble.
Pale, drawn, but seemingly unhurt, Reshma Begum was cut from the ruins and hoisted onto a stretcher to wild cheers in a scene that captivated a nation which had long given up hope of finding any more survivors.
When the eight-story building collapsed on April 24, Begum was trapped in a lightless, cell-like nook — alone, but alive. She managed to survive by taking sips from bottles of water buried with her.
“To save water, I used to drink only a small quantity,” Begum, 19, said from her hospital bed.
Hours earlier, crews had pulled the 1,000th dead body from the wreckage.
By the end of the day, a spokesman in the army control room coordinating the operation said the number of people confirmed to have been killed had reached 1,050. It was the world’s worst industrial accident since Bhopal in India in 1984.
Mohammad Rubel Rana, a workman who had been cutting iron rods at the site, said he had alerted rescue crews after hearing her cries.
“I heard a faint voice saying, ‘Save me, save me,’” Rana told Reuters. “She was given water, biscuits and oxygen.”
A doctor at the Combined Military Hospital in Savar, where Begum was treated, told reporters she was stable but needed rest.
Good news has been in short supply in Bangladesh, which is simultaneously reeling from the aftermath of the disaster and its worst bout of violence since independence in 1971, ahead of elections due early next year.
A series of deadly incidents at factories has focused global attention on safety standards in Bangladesh’s booming garment industry. Eight people were killed in a fire at a factory last week, which an industry association said on Friday may have been started deliberately.
About 2,500 people were rescued from Rana Plaza, in the industrial suburb of Savar, 20 miles northwest of Dhaka, including many injured, but there is no official estimate of the number of people still missing.