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Bangladeshi Seamstress Rescued From Factory Rubble After 17 Days

May 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: It verges on the miraculous — rescuers in Bangladesh found a survivor today in the ruins of a garment factory that collapsed on April 24th.

The discovery came long after hope had faded.

We begin with a report narrated by Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN RUGMAN, Independent Television News: Amid thumbs up and astonished cries of “God is great!” a woman called Reshma emerged into the daylight after 17 days trapped beneath the rubble. Her remarkable survival broadcast live to a disbelieving Bangladesh. Almost two weeks since anybody here was found alive.

The seamstress had found water and biscuits in the rucksacks of her fellow workers who died.

“Sir, please help me,” she had cried out, just as demolition men were about to knock down more of the concrete and twisted metal on top of her.

“Not much hurt,” she said, but she was taken away by ambulance, her 408 hour ordeal finally over.

Reshma was apparently trapped on the second floor of the eight story building. Over 1,130 dead, yet she was well enough to describe how she survived when the biscuits ran out.

RESHMA BEGUM, Survivor: I survived on water, nothing else. I could breathe, but not a lot. I managed to find a bottle of water, but then I could not find anymore. I shouted out for help, but nobody heard me.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Bulldozers began clearing the site on Monday and they were busy helping recover bodies from the wreckage this morning when a demolition worker saw a metal rod moving amid the rubble.

MOHAMMAD RUBEL RANA: While I was cutting iron rods, suddenly I found a silver-colored stick just moving from a hole and I looked through and I saw someone calling, “Please save me.”

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Nobody knows precisely how many were inside on April the 24th, but the death toll keeps rising. Almost 30 Western brands had goods manufactured here, but very few have spoken about it.

The building’s owner, Sohel Rana, has been arrested, after he had claimed these were just hairline cracks. An engineer had warned him to close the building. A day later, it collapsed.

The Bangladeshi government says it’s closed 18 factories and Disney says it will stop clothing manufacture there. But 14 million Bangladeshi families depend on the industry for their livelihoods. Among them, the mother-in-law of today’s miracle survivor, who said her children were overwhelmed to get their mother back.

Reshma the seamstress now a national heroine, entombed in concrete and steel for 17 unimaginable days, but still very much alive.