Miraculous rescue lifts spirits after Bangladesh building collapse

NEW DELHI -- In a development described as miraculous, a woman emerged alive Friday from the rubble of a collapsed building 17 days after it pancaked just outside the capital of Bangladesh.

In an interview from her hospital bed, the survivor, a seamstress identified with the single name of Reshma by local media, told a Bangladesh television station that she stayed alive by eating dried food -- which ran out after 15 days -- and drinking sparingly from bottles of water she had around her in the wreckage of the Rana Plaza building.

More than 1,000 bodies have been pulled from the wreckage of the illegally constructed structure that housed five garment factories. The disaster has focused a global spotlight on the often-dismal conditions of workers in poor countries making apparel for Western consumers.

PHOTOS: Bangladesh building collapse

But on Friday, when the remains of at least 73 more victims were discovered, the televised rescue helped boost the spirits of the battered nation.


The unexpected rescue took place when a worker walking through the rubble reportedly heard a cry and saw a hand waving amid the debris.

“As we were clearing rubble, we called out if anyone was alive,” an unnamed rescuer told the local Somoy TV channel. “Then we heard her saying, ‘Please save me, please save me.’ Since then she has been talking to us.”

The survivor was immediately given water and cookies as the army ordered bulldozer and crane operators to halt their cleanup work and the rescue unfolded live on local television.

Using a handsaw, welding and drilling equipment, a handful of workers in orange jumpsuits struggled to cut through iron rods and other debris as an ambulance and oxygen cylinder remained on standby.

When the woman was freed about 40 minutes later, a loud cheer erupted from rescue workers and military personnel on scene, many of whom prayed and raised their arms in triumph.

Video showed her dressed in a purple outfit and pink scarf, her hair tied back, being carried conscious into an ambulance on a stretcher as rescue workers placed an oxygen mask on her face.

“She is in good health,” army Maj. Moazzem Hossain told reporters.

Reports said the woman worked on the building’s third floor.

“I heard voices of the rescue workers for the past several days,” she told Somoy reporters. “I kept hitting the wreckage with sticks and rods just to attract their attention.”

“No one heard me,” she added. “It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I’d see the daylight again.”

Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, supervisor of the local military units assisting in the rescue, said Reshma told him that three other people with her had died. “We will continue our search until a survivor or a dead body is there,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

While more than 2,500 people have been rescued, mostly in the hours immediately after the collapse, crews have now pulled over 1,040 bodies from the wreckage. It is the worst industrial accident in the impoverished nation’s history and by some accounts the world’s deadliest garment industry disaster.

“This rescue is definitely great, everyone’s amazed,” said Rashna Imam, an attorney based in Dhaka. “But the downside is everyone will be hoping there are more survivors there.”


Women’s prayer at Western Wall sparks protest

Bombs, bullets and baby steps toward democracy in Pakistan

Did Chinese film director Zhang Yimou illegally father 7 children?

Tanvi Sharma in the New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.