A miracle! Dhaka woman survives 16 days under rubble

Dhaka, May 10 (IANS) A woman was Friday found alive, trapped in the rubble of the collapsed eight-storey building on the outskirts of this Bangladesh capital, 16 days after the disaster that has claimed over 1,000 lives.

Rescuers found the woman, named Reshma, after they heard groans coming from the basement of the Rana Plaza building, British newspaper Daily Mail reported.

Incredibly, she did not have significant injuries and was given biscuits and water by rescuers before being removed to hospital, the daily said.

The workers were preparing to break a large slab with heavy machinery when the “miracle” took place.

“As we made an announcement before starting to break the slab, asking whether there was anyone alive in there, we heard someone groan,” a rescuer told the daily.

The woman waved a hand before telling them “in a feeble voice” that her name was Reshma and that she was “not much hurt”.

Following a delicate operation lasting around 40 minutes, there were “wild cheers” from the crowd of rescuers and onlookers as the woman was extricated.

Wearing a violet dress, she was carried out by hand from the debirs before being taken away in an ambulance.

Army officials ordered workers to stop clearing the site with bulldozers and cranes as they tried to free the woman.

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, who were engaged in the grim job of removing decomposing bodies from the site, raised their hands together to pray for the woman to be freed alive.

A man on a loudspeaker shouted: “Allah, you are the greatest, you can do anything. Please allow us all to rescue the survivor just found. We seek apology for our sins. Please pardon us, pardon the person found alive.”

Abdur Razzak, a warrant officer with the military’s engineering department who spotted the woman trapped in slabs of cement and twisted iron, said she was okay and could even walk.

A spokesman at the army control room coordinating the operation said Friday the number of people confirmed to have been killed had reached 1,038.

Xinhua put the toll in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building at 1,043.

Rescuers have pulled out alive over 2,400 people after the building crumbled April 24.

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

Apart from a bank branch and hundreds of shops, six floors of the building housed five garment factories which make clothing for many major global brands.

After cracks were detected just a day before the disaster in the building, thousands were evacuated.

However, factory officials, ignoring the danger, forced the workers back at work the next morning.

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 and with substandard materials.

Thanks to its cheap labour, Bangladesh is now the world’s second largest garments exporter after China, producing global brands for customers around the world.

The $20-billion garment export sector comprises about 5,000 factories employing more than four million workers, 80 percent of whom are women.

In one of the worst tragedies in Bangladesh’s history late last year, at least 112 workers were killed in a fire that razed the eight-storey Tazreen Fashion Limited, where global brands were manufactured.

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