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Woman garment worker pulled out alive 17 days into Bangladesh building collapse


19:45, May 10, 2013

• A woman was pulled alive from the rubble of collapsed building in Dhaka 17 days into the tragedy.
• She was believed to be the last remaining survivor of the collapsed building.
• The death toll approached 1,100 Friday afternoon after dozens of bodies were pulled out.

DHAKA, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Rescuers on Friday evening worked miracles when they pulled alive a woman garment worker named Reshmi from piles of rubble of the collapsed eight-story building 17 days after the country's worst industrial disaster at Savar on the outskirts of capital Dhaka.

Fire Department Operations Director Major Mohammad Mahbub told Xinhua that "We gave up the hope of finding any more survivor since the rescuers on April 29 failed to pull out alive female garment workers Shahiha, whom we believed was the last remaining survivor of the collapsed building."

"We've not found any survivor after Shahina," he said.

Mahbub said, "Though we gave up the hope of finding survivor but expected such miracle." "Thanks to Allah there was no mistake this time. we pulled out her alive from the wreckage at about 4:27 p.m. (local time) from a corner of a mosque in the basement of the building."

As cranes and bulldozers cut through a mountain of concrete and mangled steel, he said" Reshmi shook a pipe to draw their attention and made some sounds."

"The rescuers discovered her by a faint, distant sound. she said 'please rescue me'."

"She was rushed to a hospital shortly after being pulled out of the rubble by rescuers with hectic efforts for half an hour."

Mahbub said hundreds of rescuers who weep as their efforts to pull Shahina alive went in vain due to a fire that broke when a rescuer was cutting a steel bar to pull her out, shouted for joy.

She was too weak to talk but managed to introduce herself to the rescuers who provided her food and water before pulling out, he added.

Rescue operation leader Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy of Bangladesh Army said she has made history as she managed to survive 17 days.

"I can't tell you right this moment exactly how did she survive. She ate whatever she got there," he said.

"When I talked to her while she was trapped, she was crying and told me,'Please pull me out'."

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina congratulated the rescuers.

Rescuers had earlier pulled alive more than 2,437 people after the building crumbled on April 24 morning.

An official at the Dhaka district administration's control room, set up outside the building Rana Plaza to coordinate rescue operation, told Xinhua that the death toll approached 1,100 Friday afternoon after dozens of bodies were pulled out from the wreckage of an eight-storey building housing five garment factories.

The official who preferred to be unnamed said the rescuers have been continuing their efforts as the stench of decaying bodies remained strong around the ruins of the sandwiched building that crumbled like a pack of cards on April 24 at about 8: 30 a.m. local time.

Following the cracks detected just one day before the man-made disaster, thousands of workers were evacuated but none has bothered about the cracks when officials of the factories forced them on the next morning to return to their workplaces to make clothing for many major global brands.

No authentic estimate that how many bodies remain trapped in the piles of the rubble because the exact number of people inside the building at the time of the collapse has not been known, he said.

Many family members still at the scene, await bodies of their loved ones. A school ground was used to temporarily keep the bodies for identification.

An initial government probe has blamed vibrations from giant generators combined with the vibrations of sewing machinery for the collapse of the building, allegedly constructed without proper permission with substandard materials.

At least 12 people have been arrested, including the owner of the collapsed building and owners of the factories.

According to sources, almost all the fatalities are workers of the five factories -- Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms -- which make clothing for many major global brands.

Apart from a bank's branch and hundreds of shops, six floors of the building, owned by a ruling party leader, housed the five garment factories which, according to the months-old data of the owners' association, employed nearly 3,122 workers, mostly women.

But the BGMEA, which is now preparing a list of all workers to disburse salary, says there were more workers in the factories than those figures showed.

The tragedy revived questions about the commitments of factory owners and their global buyers to providing safe working conditions in the 20-billion-U.S.-dollar export sector, which comprises about 5,000 factories employing more than 4 million workers, 80 percent of whom are women.

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