Bangladesh Factory Collapse Survivor Pulled From Rubble After 17 Days Trapped

By: CBS/AP (Posted by Amanda Lanum)
By: CBS/AP (Posted by Amanda Lanum)

DHAKA, BANGLADESH (CBS/AP) -- Bangladesh rescue workers have freed a woman trapped for 17 days in the rubble of a collapsed building.

The rescuers discovered the woman Friday afternoon and ordered an immediate halt to their salvage operation. They used handsaws to cut her out of the rubble and the crowd gathered at the scene erupted in cheers.

Bangladeshi television showed live video of rescuers carrying the woman, identified by the Daily Star newspaper only as Reshma, out from the mountain of twisted steel and concrete and rushing her to a waiting ambulance.

CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports that it had been 13 days since the last person was pulled alive from the rubble. The survivor rescued Friday appeared to have suffered no serious injuries in the collapse. She was wearing an oxygen mask and was immediately treated for dehydration, according to local media.

The rescue offered an increasingly-rare glimmer of hope as the death toll from the collapse more than two weeks ago soared past 1,000, with no end in sight to the stream of bodies being pulled from the wreckage of the worst-ever garment industry disaster.

Officials said 1,038 bodies had been recovered as of Friday morning from the rubble of the fallen building, which had housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. The disaster has raised alarm about the often deadly working conditions in Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry, which provides clothing for major retailers around the globe.

"We are trying to cut through the basement floor. This is very hard. More bodies are coming out," said Brig. Gen. Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder, an army official overseeing the recovery work. "We will need more time to complete as we are trying to recover more bodies."

He said the bodies being recovered are badly decomposed and identification is difficult.

"We are working carefully," he said. "If we get any ID card or mobile phone with them, we can still identify them. Our sincere effort is to at least hand over the bodies to the families.

Brig. Gen. Azmal Kabir, a top official of the military's engineering section, said more than half of the estimated 7,000 tons of debris have been removed from the site but he did not know when the work would be finished.

The country's powerful garment industry was struck by more tragedy late Wednesday night, when a fire in a sweater factory that had closed for the day killed eight people, including a senior police officer, a Bangladeshi politician and a top clothing industry official.

Unlike the collapse at the Rana Plaza building on April 24, which was blamed on shoddy construction and disregard for safety regulations, the Tung Hai Sweater factory appeared to have conformed to building codes. A top fire official said the deaths there were caused by panic and bad luck.

The fire engulfed the lower floors of the 11-story factory, which had closed for the day. The smoldering acrylic products produced immense amounts of smoke and poison gas and the victims suffocated as they ran down the stairs.


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