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Woman Rescued from Bangladesh Factory Rubble After 17 Days

The same day that the death toll of a nine-story factory collapse in Savar in the outskirts of Bangladesh's capital city of Dhaka rose to 1,055, now the deadliest building collapse since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a female worker named Reshma Begum was found alive after being trapped in the rubble for 17 days.

Begum worked on the building's second floor as a sewing operator. As the building collapsed, the 24-year-old was trapped in a mosque inside the basement and survived 416 hours there by breathing through a pipe and scavenging for biscuits in the rucksacks of dead colleagues.

In the first few days after the structure caved in on April 24,2013, 2,428 people were rescued from the collapsed building. Hope that others survivors will be found among the rubble is fading fast.

Bangladeshi rescuers retrieve garment worker Reshma from the rubble of a collapsed building in Savar after seventeen days. Image by Rehman Asad. opyright Demotix (10/5/2013)

Bangladeshi rescuers retrieve garment worker Reshma from the rubble of a collapsed building in Savar after 17 days. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (10/5/2013).

Begum told a news agency:

আমি ১৭ দিন পানি খেয়ে বেঁচেছিলাম। ভবন ধসের পরপরই আমি ভবনের নিচে আটকা পড়ি। পরে বাঁচার জন্য ভবনে অবস্থিত নামাজ ঘরে চলে যাই। উদ্ধারকারীরা ওপর থেকে নানা সময়ে বোতলজাত পানি পাঠান। আমি সেখান থেকে দুই বোতল পানি সংরক্ষণ করে রাখি। সেই বোতলের পানি আমি প্রতিদিন অল্প অল্প খেয়ে জীবন বাঁচাই।

I survived mainly by drinking water. I was trapped immediately after the building collapse. I quickly went to the prayer room for refuge. The rescuers dropped water inside in different times. I managed to collect two bottles and survived on them all these days.

Begum's miraculous survival has caused a stir among many. Hearing the good news, blogger Ashraf Shishir (@ashrafshishir) wrote:

@ashrafshishir: অনেকদিন পর বাচ্চা ছেলের মতো কাঁদলাম। এইমাত্র রেশমী অথবা রেশমাকে জীবন্ত উদ্ধার করা সম্ভব হয়েছে!…

@ashrafshishir (Ashraf Shishir): I cried like a kid after so many times. Reshmi or Reshma has just been rescued alive!..

Development worker Shahana Siddiqui (@shahanasiddiqui) tried not to cry for happiness. She tweeted:

@shahanasiddiqui: Holding back tears as I read through Reshma's miraculous save! Times of joy, times of pride #Bangladesh #savar.

Army and rescuers look through the pocket point in the rubble of Rana Plaza where they found Reshma located alive under the rubble after 17 days of the worst-ever building collapse tragedy. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (10/5/2013)

Army and rescuers look through the pocket point in the rubble of Rana Plaza where they found Reshma located alive under the rubble. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (10/5/2013)

Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi), senior minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs of UK, responded after hearing the news of Reshma's rescue:

@SayeedaWarsi: Extraordinary & uplifting scenes of a young women rescued 17 days after #Savar building collapse. A ray of hope in the midst of tragedy.

Asif Touhid, a marketing professional, wrote on Facebook:

Reshma … Dear sister, you audacity to stay alive gave me inspiration and restored my faith on my people.

Journalist Kamrul Hasan (@_Kamrul_Hasan_) thanked all the rescuers who worked hard to pull out Begum alive:

@Kamrul_Hasan: এভাবেও ফিরে আসা যায়! অভিনন্দন বেশমা, আপনি বেঁচে থাকুন। অনেক অনেক ধন্যবাদ বাংলাদেশ সেনাবাহিনীসহ সকল উদ্ধারকারীদের।

@Kamrul_Hasan: Even this is possible! Congratulations Reshma, please stay alive and well. Many thanks to the Bangladesh army rescue team for their efforts.

The role of the media was questioned as they converged on the rescued Begum and tried to interview her. Journalist Tanvir Ahmed urged his colleagues on Facebook:

আপাতত উদ্ধারকর্মী আর চিকিৎসকদের সাক্ষাতকার নিয়ে তৃপ্ত থাকুন। এতদিন রেশমা কি খেয়ে বেঁচে ছিলো, তার জামা কাপড় এতো পরিস্কার কেন? এসকল প্রশ্নের চেয়ে মেয়েটির এখন শুধুই প্রয়োজন চিকিৎসা সেবা।

Please be content with interviews of rescuers and the medical team. Don't bother asking how she survived for so many days. Why are her clothes not worn out? Instead of answering these questions, she needs immediate medical help.

Relatives of missing or dead garment workers optimistic 17 days after the incident. Image by Shafiur Rahman. Copyright Demotix (10/5/2013)

Relatives of missing or dead garment workers remain optimistic even 17 days after the incident. Image by Shafiur Rahman. Copyright Demotix (10/5/2013)

The readymade garments industry is the largest export earners of Bangladesh, so in the eyes of many the building collapse is a negative portrayal of Bangladesh's image. Keeping this in mind, Abu Maksud made Begum the face of Bangladesh in a post on on Facebook:

১৭ দিন ধরে ধ্বংসস্তুপে বেঁচে ছিল বাংলাদেশ। রেশমা- বোন আমার অন্ধকূপ থেকে তুমি ফিরে এসেছ, তুমি দেখিয়েছ বাংলাদেশ বেঁচে থাকে, ধ্বংসস্তুপেও বাংলাদেশ বেঁচে থাকে।

Bangladesh survived under rubble for 17 days. Sister Reshma – you have come back from the dead hole. You have shown that Bangladesh even survives under rubble.

Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune, concluded in an interview with Australian website News.com.au:

Reshma represents the best of Bangladesh, the nation's resilience in the face of unbelievable hardship, its courage, its strength, its determination to never give up whatever the odds.

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