Reshma pulls off a miracle

Amid dramatic scenes, Reshma Begum, a readymade garment worker, has been pulled alive from the debris of the collapsed Savar building on the 17th day of the salvage operation.

Published : 10 May 2013, 05:32 AM
Updated : 10 May 2013, 11:37 AM

The 19-year-old seamstress from Dinajpur was rushed to the Combined Military Hospital at Savar after being rescued at 4:26pm. Doctors said she was out of danger.

The incredible discovery of her being trapped in the rubble came 406 hours after the nine-storey structure collapsed in a heap on the morning of Apr 24, killing more than 1000 people so far.

She fought all odds to survive the catastrophe for 17 days, even as the rescuers had given up hope of finding survivors amidst the wreckage of concrete and steel weeks ago.

Bangladesh Army’s Major Moazzem, who joined her rescue, said they heard a feeble voice under the rubble and found Reshma around at 3:30pm while they were clearing away debris between the first floor and basement with heavy equipment.

Rescuers take Reshma Begum, who survived under the rubble of Rana Plaza for 16 days, to hospital after rescuing her on Friday.

She survived by scavenging for biscuits and bottled water in the rucksacks of dead colleagues in the basement.
"There was some dried food around me. I ate the dried food for 15 days. The last two days I had nothing but water. I used to drink only a limited quantity of water to save it. I had some bottles of water around me," she said.
It is also believed Reshma may have survived for such a long time because of the large amounts of oxygen and water rescuers pumped into the wreckage during the initial efforts to free trapped workers.
Rescuers were removing decomposing bodies from the site when they discovered the woman, triggering jubilant scenes and the cranes and bulldozers stopped work immediately.
Rescuers used a handsaw as well as welding and drilling equipment to try to cut through the iron rod and debris trapping her. They asked for a small oxygen cylinder to be brought to the site.
Hundreds of people tasked with removing decomposing bodies from the site, raised their hands together to pray for the woman to be freed alive
The discovery drew wild cheers from the crowd which gathered as the woman, in a purple dress, was carried on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance before being taken to the military hospital. She is currently in the Intensive Care Unit.
Many said it was a ‘miracle’ that she was alive even after so many days.
Later she said: "I heard voices of the rescue workers for the past several days. I kept hitting the wreckage with sticks and rods just to attract their attention."
"No one heard me. It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I'd see the daylight again," she said.
After the building near the Savar Bus Stand collapsed, Army, Fire Service, Red Crescent, members of different law enforcement agencies, volunteers and locals had started the rescue efforts to save as many lives possible.
After giving up hope of finding anyone alive under the wreckage, the rescuers had pressed in service heavy machinery to clear the debris on Apr 28.
But only the next day on Apr 29, they found one ‘Shahina’ alive under the debris. But she could not be rescued as she died in a fire that had broken out at the wreckage site only a few hours after she was spotted.
The rescue of Reshma may sound unbelievable, but it is not the first such case. She is one of the longest-surviving victims ever to be pulled out alive after being buried under rubble.
Park Seung Hyun, a 19-year-old teenager, was also rescued alive with a few scratches in a similar fashion 17 days after she was trapped under rubbles of Sampoong Department Store that had caved at Seoul in South Korea in 1995.
The collapse was the largest disaster in South Korean history where 502 people died and 937 were injured.
Major Moazzem said Warrant Officer Razzak saw a stick moving in the rubble at first. As he moved closer, he saw Reshma standing in a hole under the debris.
Later Razzak said that as he had responded to her call, Reshma cried out loud, “Sir, please save me.”
Food, water and oxygen were given to her soon after she was pulled out. She was very weak though there were no injuries.
Razzak said Reshma was on the second floor of Rana Plaza when it caved in with around 5,000 readymade garment workers in five factories.
Lt Col Imran, who also helped in rescuing the teenager, said, “It was our good fortune that there was a cavity in that spot through which she was getting oxygen. We will continue our search to see whether there are any more survivors.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Reshma at the hospital and thanked all involved in the rescue operation at collapsed building site. She enquired about her latest condition and talked to her mother.
After hearing the news of her rescue, she also spoke to Reshma on telephone. She offered her all assistance including free treatment.
The Prime Minister asked all to make sure Reshma was not disturbed.
Leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia also expressed her gratitude to the rescuers for saving the life.