Disaster survivor battles to cope

2013-05-12 08:40
Reshma is examined on a hospital bed in Dhaka after she was rescued from a collapsed building in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Somoy TV via AP Video/ AP)

Reshma is examined on a hospital bed in Dhaka after she was rescued from a collapsed building in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Somoy TV via AP Video/ AP)

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Survivor found in Bangladesh collapsed building

2013-05-10 13:39

Bangladeshi rescuers have found a woman survivor in the rubble of a garment factory complex which collapsed 17 days ago and killed more than 1000 people. Watch.WATCH

Savar - A seamstress who survived 17 days before being rescued from a collapsed garment factory building outside of Bangladesh's capital was panicked, dehydrated and suffering from insomnia as she recovered in a hospital on Saturday, but was in generally good condition, according to her doctors.

The rescue on Friday of 19-year-old Reshma Begum brought a boost to the workers who had spent more than two weeks pulling decaying bodies from the rubble. By Saturday, they had resumed their grim recovery task, as the death toll surpassed 1 100 in the world's worst garment industry disaster.

"We will not leave the operation until the last dead body and living person is found," said major general Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the head of the local military units in charge of rescue operations.

Lieutenant colonel Azizur Rahman, a doctor at the military hospital where Begum is being treated, said she was exhausted and badly stressed when she was brought in an ambulance on Friday afternoon. She suffered scratches, but no major injuries, he said. Her kidneys were functioning at less than 45% and she suffered insomnia.

"She is panicked, sometimes she holds nurses' hands tight," he said.

Complete rest

Doctors were giving her semi-solid food and saline for her dehydration. They advised complete rest, and barred reporters from speaking with her for fear their questions would worsen her fragile psychological state.

"We don't want those memories to haunt her now, so we are not allowing anybody to ask her anything," Rahman said, adding that a team of psychiatrists would examine her.

Nevertheless, Suhrawardy said Begum told him she was fine.

Several photographers and cameramen were allowed to take pictures of Begum on Saturday afternoon as she lay on her hospital bed. Her head was covered in a neon green scarf, and she looked tired but alert. A white sheet covered her up to her neck. She was hooked to a monitor and had an intravenous drip in her left arm.

Begum had spent 17 days in a room-like area under the rubble high enough for her to stand, surviving on dried food, bottled water and rainwater, Suhrawardy said. She got fresh air from some of the 27 air holes that rescuers had dug in the rubble. She even found cartons of dresses inside and was able to change her clothes, Suhrawardy said.

Miraculous recovery

"Her return is amazing, miraculous," he said.

Begum's family said they - like many other families of workers still missing - had been losing hope of finding her alive. Her brother Zayed Islam said her relatives initially camped out at the collapse site and then moved to the hospital in the first days after the disaster, hoping to find her among the injured. Eventually, they moved to the school ground that had been turned into a makeshift morgue, so they could try to find her among the dead bodies.

Then, on Friday, they were told to come back to the hospital: She was alive.

"I just could not believe it when I saw her in the hospital," her mother, Zobeda Begum, said through tears. "My daughter has come back to me. God, you are merciful and I don't have anything else to ask for from you."

Islam said he fainted when he saw her.

"When I regained my senses, Reshma told me, 'Brother, I'm fine. Don't worry about me,'" he said.

Begum moved to Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, two-and-a-half years ago to get a job in the garment industry and help her poor family, Islam said. She married a year ago, but her husband left her three months ago, he said.

Read more on:    bangladesh  |  bangladesh building collapse

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