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Woman Saved, But Building Deaths Climb

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

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A trapped woman has been found alive and safe amid the ruins of a Bangladesh garment factory building, but the number of victims topped 1,000 and kept rising.

Authorities say they expect to officially end recovery efforts at the site of the fallen Dhaka building today (May 14).

The building with illegally constructed floors collapsed the morning of April 24, with thousands of garment workers inside. The workers had been ordered to report to their jobs, even though police had ordered the building evacuated the day before, after structural cracks were found.

Woman Pulled from Ruins

Recovery workers had given up hope of finding any survivors and were plowing through the debris using heavy machinery Friday afternoon (May 10) when they discovered the woman, identified as 19-year-old Reshma Begum.

A recovery worker said he had been cutting iron rods when he heard Begum call for help.


Reshma Begum, 19, reported for work as a seamstress in the Bangladeshi factory on April 24, the day the building collapsed. She was pulled from the wreckage 17 days later. Her rescue was shown live on national television.

“I heard a faint voice saying ‘Save me, Save me’,” the worker told Reuters television. “She was given water, biscuits and oxygen.”

Begum had survived for 17 days in the basement of the collapsed eight-story Rana Plaza on water and dried food.

Rescuers had pushed bottled water through cracks in the ruins in hopes that survivors would find them.

“I never dreamed I'd see the daylight again,” Begum, who is recovering in a nearby hospital, told media outlets. “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 told the UK’s Daily Mail.

Begum worked as a seamstress for one of the five garment companies housed in the building, reports related. She told media Monday that she would never again work in a Bangladesh garment factory.

Her stunning rescue was shown live on national television.

Country’s Worst Industrial Accident

As of Monday (May 13), 1,127 victims had been pulled from the site and 2,438 had survived. It is unknown how many people were working in the structure when it was reduced to ruins.

Dhaka building collapse
Rijans / Wikimedia Commons

The tragedy is the worst ever in the garment industry, killing 1,1,27 people. It is also the worst industrial accident in Bangladesh's history. Recovery operations are expected to end today.

The tragedy has been described as the worst industrial accident in the country’s history and the worst ever in the garment industry.

Cracks Seen Day Before Collapse

Many of the victims were garment workers who had been told by the factory owners and building owner to report to work the morning of April 24, despite a police evacuation order issued the day before when large cracks were discovered in the structure, according to reports.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association also told media outlets that after cracks were seen, it asked owners of the five factories to discontinue operations until further examination by engineers.

However, the owners opened their factories, relying on the word of building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana that the building was safe for occupancy, according to various reports.

Workers Threatened

Reports also said the workers were threatened with a month’s salary cut if they did not show up for work. Standard monthly wages are around $50 per month for the workers, according to NBC News.

The five factories in the building were Ether Tex, New Wave Bottoms, New Wave Style, Phantom Apparels and Phantom Tac.

Arrests Made, Charges Considered

Nine arrests were made following the deadly incident, but it is unclear whether any charges have officially been filed. Charges being considered include murder, negligence and illegal construction, according to various reports.

Those arrested include two government engineers, factory owners and Rana. Rana was said to have been attempting to flee to India when he was detained.

Moreover, authorities say that the Rana Plaza owner illegally added three floors to the building when it was constructed six years ago.

NBC News / Today

The building's owner and local politician Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested following the disaster. Many allege that he told factory owners that the building was safe for occupancy despite large cracks in the concrete.

Further, an architect who worked for the firm that originally designed the building said that the building was not designed for heavy industrial work.

Vibrations from the heavy machinery used within has been identified as a possible cause of the structural collapse, but an official cause has not yet been identified.

Call for Reform; Factory Fire

The disaster has led the government to shut down 18 factories for safety concerns, officials said Wednesday (May 8). The government has also decided to allow the country’s four million garment workers to form trade unions without factory owner permission as part of industry reform, USA Today reported Monday.

Many fear that a similar incident could happen in any one of the country's 5,000 garment factory buildings.

Indeed, a day after the annoucement, a fire broke out at another garment factory in Dhaka, killing eight people.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.


Tagged categories: Building owners; Commercial Construction; Concrete; Construction; Fatalities; Health and safety; Inspection; Maintenance + Renovation

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