News / Asia

Woman Rescued From Bangladesh Disaster Rubble

Bangladeshi rescuers retrieve garment worker Reshma from the rubble of a collapsed building in Savar on May 10, 2013.
Bangladeshi rescuers retrieve garment worker Reshma from the rubble of a collapsed building in Savar on May 10, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
Emergency workers in Bangladesh have rescued a woman who survived 17 days buried in the rubble of a collapsed garment factory complex, as the death toll from the disaster rose to more than 1,000.

Crowds erupted into cheers after the woman, Reshma Begum, was pulled from the ruins Friday.

She managed to survive by taking sips from bottles of water buried with her. Begum, 19, said from her hospital bed that she drank only a small quantity'' to save water

Rescue worker Mohammad Rubel Rana described the scene. "When 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'. Then instantly I called the army and fire fighters and said please look I heard a sound. Then they saw her and confirmed that there was a woman. They rescued her and sent her to hospital,'' he said.

Emergency workers had earlier given up hope that they would find any more survivors from the accident near Dhaka.

  • A man walks at the site where a garment factory building collapsed on April 24 in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 13, 2013.
  • Reshma Begum, center, the 19-year-old seamstress who spent 17 days trapped in the rubble of a collapsed factory building talks to the media at a hospital in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 13, 2013.
  • Rescuers carry a survivor pulled out from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Saver, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 10, 2013.
  • People work in the rubble of a collapsed garment factory in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 10, 2013.
  • Rescuers carry the body of a victim from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh, May 7, 2013.
  • A woman cries after she identified her relative's body that was recovered from the rubble of a collapsed garment factory building, Savar, Bangladesh, May 3, 2013.
  • The remaining standing part of the collapsed Rana Plaza building collapses during a rescue operation by the army in Savar, Bangladesh, May 2, 2013.
  • Relatives mourn as they look for garment workers, missing after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 2, 2013.
  • Workers dig mass graves during a burial of unidentified garment workers, who died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 1, 2013.
  • A boy covers his nose with a cloth as people gather in front of mass graves during the burial of unidentified garment workers, who died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, May 1, 2013.
  • A woman waits for news of her relative, a garment worker, who is missing after the collapse of Rana Plaza building, in front of missing people posters in Savar, Bangladesh, April 30, 2013.
  • Firefighters and army personnel are blanketed in thick dust after part of the garment factory building collapses after being dislodged as part of the clearing process in Savar, near Dhaka, April 29, 2013.
  • Crowds gather at the collapsed Rana Plaza building as people rescue garment workers trapped in the rubble, Savar, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013.

Country's Worst Industrial Accident

The collapse of the Rana Plaza Building - eight-stories high and home to five garment factories is Bangladesh's worst industrial accident. When it buckled more than two weeks ago, it crushed workers under a mass of concrete and bricks, making it difficult to identify many of them.

While the focus has remained on the Rana collapse, a second accident took place at another garment factory. A fire engulfed the lower floors of an 11-story factory making sweaters after it had shut Wednesday evening. The owner and several other people died in the blaze.

Officials said the building where the latest accident occurred did conform to building codes. Both accidents have further heightened concerns of safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories, which make apparel for many Western brands.

In recent days, the government has intensified inspections of buildings and asked 18 garment factories to shut down for failing to meet work and safety standards.

Calls for Better Working Conditions
Kalpona Akter, with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, has been fighting for better conditions for the 3.6 million Bangladeshis employed in the garment industry. She hopes that this time the government is serious about putting in place better workplace inspection mechanisms.   
“After every fire accident or every collapse or every industrial accident, the government really comes with so many fake commitments, but this time we really want to see them to move," she said. "It is more than high time for them to act now. These all deaths are preventable.”

With the accident making news across the world, the government and garment companies are under pressure to address the problems plaguing Bangladesh’s biggest manufacturing industry. Besides safety issues, they also include concerns over poor wages and labor rights.       
Mustafizur Rahman with the independent Center for Policy Dialogue in Dhaka said it is imperative for the government to revamp the industry.
“Brand Bangladesh of course has taken a hit. But this time around there are concerted efforts to address many of the concerns…..workers safety, workers rights, building construction, all these things are now coming to the fore," said Rahman. "Medium to long term impact will depend on what homework we are doing and whether we are doing it adequately. We are hoping that this time around lessons will be learnt.”

The government has blamed the Rana Plaza collapse on violation of building codes and use of shoddy construction materials. A preliminary inquiry said vibrations from four huge generators triggered the collapse.

Western Retailers Criticized
The accident has prompted some criticism of Western retailers who source their clothes in Bangladesh. Walt Disney Company announced a week ago that it would pull out of five developing countries including Bangladesh, in part because of fatal accidents at factories.  
However, there have been many calls asking Western retailers to take on a bigger role in improving working conditions in the industry instead of abandoning it.
Labor activist Akter, backs those voices. He said, "These days we are calling them [Western retailers] to sign legally binding fire and building safety agreements which ensure them to pay to do necessary intervention and repair for their sourcing factories and also it ensures that workers would have their voice in the improving process, workers should themselves tell them that, yes, the factory they are working on, it is safe for them.”
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest apparel supplier and the $20 billion garment industry is its biggest foreign exchange earner.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Okon James from: Calabar,Nigeria
May 10, 2013 6:44 PM
This is a Miracle,for Her to Survived this long She is Blessed,i felt so saded to hear that heavy generators our install in a stories building,this alone can vibrate the foundations of the building,please this system must change if more disasters is not expected soon than later.

by: Sirajul Islam from: Dhaka, Bangladesh
May 10, 2013 1:30 PM
This is incredible and the chances were very slim that anyone could survive that long. It's because Reshma had gotten trapped near where a water source was in reach and some food. We hope she survives to tell us how they did get through this ordeal. Everybody’s heart goes out to these rural Bangladeshi women, who, for a better life, came out of rural homes in flocks to work in the garments factories located in the cities or suburbs.

They not only offsetting their own poverty but supporting a $20 billion industry in Bangladesh, earning foreign currency for the country risking their lives at the mercy of the traders’ 'only-profit motto'. It’s the time now for ‘engagement’ of all concerned. Yes, I mean, everybody concerned should ensure, by their close-quarter engagement, that workers’ rights and the safety codes aren’t violated, and their wage increased to a ‘just wage’ from the existing 2-cents per piece for a $20 apparel.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs