There are no rules to predict who survives a disaster and who doesn’t. While there are standard guidelines you can follow, you most likely don’t know the severity of the situation until you are in it.
The following story explains how one woman survived for 17 days after the world’s worst factory collapse took place in Bangladesh. What happened next forced major U.S. and European companies operating in the building to be under intense speculation. But in order to determine what happened, the government first had to figure out who was involved…
It was a regular day at work for Bangladesh woman, Reshma Begum. She worked as a seamstress in a factory building called Rana Plaza. The building was notorious for supplying major retailers like British company Primark with clothing.
Horrible Working Conditions
To say that factory workers worked their butts off there would be an understatement. The building was the largest factory building in the country, employing over 3,000 workers. But on the morning of April 24, no worker could have anticipated what happened, even though Rana Plaza’s owner was given a forewarning…
Disaster At Rana Plaza
Shortly after people had started their workday, the central portion of the building caved in. Blame it on the poor structure of the building, or on too many workers, but everyone went into panic mode. People scrambled to get out, but the workers were forced to remain inside by management.
Giving Up Hope
Reshma worked on the third floor of the factory and there was no way she could have survived. Reshma’s aunt who was nearby during the cleanup told officials she only expected to see her body. Never in a million years would she imagine Reshma could still be alive…
The Death Toll Was Climbing
In the following days, the digging for bodies had progressed and the talk of rescuing survivors had faded. The grim reality was that over 1,000 had died and approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building alive. Seventeen days into the recovery phase, a soldier from the Bangladeshi Army stood on top of the rubble of the collapsed building and noticed an iron rod that seemed to be moving.
A Soldier Heard A Noise Underneath The Rubble
There was a noise accompanied with a voice and television stations in Bangladesh cut to the scene. Rescuers quickly carved a hole through a concrete pillar and found a woman gasping. One of the rescuers said, “When I listened closely, I heard a female voice asking for me to save her…I immediately told the army and fire brigade to look for survivors, because I had heard a voice and seen some movement.”
It Was An Emotional Moment
It was Reshma shouting, “Save me!” As rescuers pulled her into the sunlight, her face was covered in dust as she was placed on a stretcher. She was lifted from the rubble and crowds at the site broke into cheers saying “God is great!” It was such an emotional moment that even the rescue workers were seen wiping away their tears.
Incidents Like Reshma’s Are Extremely Rare
“It’s incredible that someone could have survived in the wreckage 408 hours after the building came down,” said Lieutenant Shah Jamal. “Her will to live is amazing. They gave her oxygen and she was rushed to the hospital. But, it baffled everyone how she managed to survive trapped for 17 days when no one else did…
How She Survived
According to rescuers, Reshma had enough clear space to stand and reach some food and water. She was trapped in the basement, but not crushed when the building collapsed. Reshma told rescuers she survived by scavenging for biscuits in the rucksacks of dead colleagues and drinking rainwater.
Against All Odds
She survived in an opening of maybe 10 feet by 8 feet, so it was high enough for her to stand. She was surrounded by beams and pillars and air was able to trickle through the crevices. She found enough food and water to last until her final two days being trapped. Then, she was holding onto her last breath…
It Was A Miracle
Reshma never dreamed she’d see daylight again, but she was thrilled as she sat in her hospital bed. Rescuers thought if there was one survivor 17 days after the incident, maybe there was at least one more. An even more intensified army rescue began using heavy machinery to crack into all areas of the building’s basement, but all they found was water.
Since the horrific incident, daily life in Dkaha came to a halt. Residents watched the rescue unfold on local television and army officers coordinating the rescue expressed astonishment at finding a survivor in the rubble. It seemed to be one of the only pieces of good news in a rather grim story. It did, however, get the world talking about what U.S. companies had factories employed in that building…
A Huge Wake Up Call
The Rana Plaza tragedy was a wake-up call because no one immediately knew which companies were sourcing clothing from the building at the time of the collapse. Investigators actually had to go through the ruins to collect labels or interview surviving workers. This was the only way they could hold any brands accountable.
Major apparel companies from the U.S. and Europe, including Mango, Children’s Place, and Premier Clothing, were discovered to have recent orders in factories in Rana Plaza. This was the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry and has intensified pressure on retailers who buy clothing manufactured in Bangladesh…
What Caused It?
The incident shook Bangladesh’s $28 billion garment industry, which was the second largest in the world behind China. The causes included shabby construction, a building with too many floors and too much heavy equipment for the structure to withstand. The building contained clothing factories, apartments, a bank, and several shops.
Ignored All Warnings
What’s unnerving is that one day before the building collapsed, the shops and bank on the lower floors were closed after cracks were discovered in the building. The building’s owners ignored warnings to avoid using the building after the cracks appeared and garment workers were ordered to return to work the following day anyway. So, who was charged in the incident?
Who Was Responsible?
The government blamed the owners and builders of the complex. Just last year, three years after the incident, 38 people were charged with murder in the building’s collapse. These people included the owner of the plaza and the owners of the factories it housed. It urged international retailers to rethink their strategies.
The Need For More Transparency
Since the disaster, international retailers supplied by businesses in Rana Plaza have suffered widespread criticism. The disaster also drew attention to the horrific conditions factory employees were working in and it raised questions about transparency in the global garment industry in which they work.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Bangladesh government rushed to improve safety measures. Human rights and labor advocates called for greater transparency and accountability in the industry. What followed was a Transparency Pledge that major companies like Nike would adopt.
What Is The Transparency Pledge?
The objective of the Transparency Pledge is to help the garment industry reach a common standard for supply chain disclosures by getting companies to publish standardized, meaningful information on all factories in the manufacturing phase of their supply chains. Companies such as Nike, Patagonia and H&M Group are among the 17 companies committing to adhere to the transparency pledge.