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Woman found alive in Bangladesh rubble recovering

SAVAR, Bangladesh — A woman found alive in the rubble of a garment factory that collapsed more than two weeks ago is recovering in a hospital, but has trouble sleeping and sometimes grips the nurses' hands in panic, doctors said Saturday.

After the euphoria over rescuing the 19-year-old seamstress, workers returned Saturday to the grim task of dismantling the wreckage and retrieving decomposing bodies, knowing there was little chance of finding any more survivors.

The death toll from Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster reached 1,090 and is still climbing. More than 2,500 people were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the April 24 disaster, but until Friday, crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive.

Then, in the midst of what had become a grim search for decaying bodies following the world's worst garment industry disaster, rescuers found the seamstress, Reshma Begum, alive, providing a much-needed boost for the weary workers.

On Saturday, several photographers were allowed into the hospital to take pictures of Begum. Lying on her bed under a sheet, she looked tired but alert. She was hooked up to a monitor and an intravenous drip.

Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy, the head of the local military units in charge of rescue operations, said Begum told him she was fine. Physicians have advised her to have complete rest, he said.

Col. Azizur Rahman, a doctor at the hospital, said she sometimes panics and holds the nurses' hands tightly.

"We don't want those memories to haunt her now, so we are not allowing anybody to ask her anything," Rahman said.

"She is not sleeping well. She is now being provided semi-liquid food," he said.

For 17 days, Begum lay trapped beneath thousands of tons of wreckage as temperatures outside climbed into the mid-90s. She rationed food and water. She banged a pipe in a desperate attempt to attract attention and was fast losing hope of ever making it out alive.

In the ruins of the collapsed eight-story building above her, the frantic rescue operation had long ago ended.

"No one heard me. It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I'd see the daylight again," the seamstress, Reshma Begum, told Somoy TV from her hospital bed after her rescue.

The miraculous moment came when salvage workers finally heard Begum's banging. They pulled her to safety. She was in surprisingly good condition.

"I heard her say, 'I am alive, please save me.' I gave her water. She was okay," said Miraj Hossain, a volunteer who crawled through the debris to help cut Begum free.

Her rescue was broadcast on television across Bangladesh. The prime minister rushed to the hospital, as did Begum's family to embrace a loved one they thought they'd never again see alive.

Officials said Saturday that 1,090 bodies had been recovered so far from the ruins of the Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. They said 780 bodies had been handed over to families.

Reshma Begum, who survived 17 days before being rescued from a collapsed garment factory building, receives treatment at a hospital in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Saturday.

Associated Press

Reshma Begum, who survived 17 days before being rescued from a collapsed garment factory building, receives treatment at a hospital in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Saturday.

Woman found alive in Bangladesh rubble recovering 05/11/13 [Last modified: Sunday, May 12, 2013 12:42am]

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