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Alive: Woman Freed From Factory Rubble after Seventeen Days

Deaths in Bangladesh top 1,000 but one survivor brings waves of cheers at site of disaster

Jon Queally, staff writer

Though the death count has now surpassed 1,000 in the worst garment industry disaster in the history of Bangladesh, cheers of joy went up at the site on Friday after a woman was found alive inside the rubble after being trapped for more than two weeks.

Associated Press reports:

Rescue workers in Bangladesh freed a woman buried for 17 days inside a prayer room in the wreckage of a collapsed garment factory building. The amazing rescue took place Friday as the death toll from the disaster raced past 1,000, making it one of the worst industrial tragedies in history.

The rescuers discovered the woman Friday afternoon in the wreckage of the basement of the building and ordered the cranes and bulldozers to immediately stop work. They used handsaws to cut through the rubble, as hundreds of people who had been engaged in the grim job of removing decomposing bodies from the site, raised their hands together in prayer.

The forty-year-old women, whose name was released as Resma, was rushed to a local hospital but early reports suggest she was in amazingly good condition despite her ordeal.

Though more than 1,000 dead bodies have been recovered so far at the site of the collapse Rana complex, and officials believe there are still more. Resma's rescue raised hopes that others may have survived, but that still appears unlikely.

The disaster in Dhaka last month was also followed by a fire this week at a separate factory which claimed the lives of eight employees. As The Guardian reports, the garment industry in Bangladesh has come under new pressure to improve conditions for workers in the nation's highly profitable, yet controversial, export business:

Bangladesh is the second biggest garment maker in the world, with 4 million workers, mostly women, employed in the industry. Many of them face chronically unsafe working conditions – with blocked or non-existent fire exits and shaky foundations – and receive barely subsistence wages.

More than 700 workers have died in fires in garment factories since 2005, according to labour groups who complain that neither retailers nor factory owners give enough importance to safety.

Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, said western brands must do more to improve safety in Bangladesh. "Fires are happening in modern factories as well as old ones," she said. "We must build a culture of safety in Bangladesh and international retailers must be part of this."


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