Britain’s The Daily Mail explores the case of Reshma, the “miracle” survivor of Rana Plaza, and joins other news agencies in questioning whether the “rescue” was in fact an elaborate hoax.
Male colleague claims she escaped on the day the building collapsed
Doubt has been cast on official story of her 17-day ordeal
Bangladeshi investigators claim government staged rescue
They are protecting the nation’s £1bn clothing industry, said activists
Gasping for fresh air as she was pulled out alive from the ruins of a clothing factory 17 days after it collapsed around her, worker Reshma Begum was hailed as ‘the miracle woman’.
Now the seamstress, whose extraordinary survival story made headlines around the world last month, is accused of being part of a massive hoax.
Miss Begum was dramatically discovered among the tangled steel and concrete of the Bangladesh garment factory, where clothes were manufactured by suppliers for high street brands including Primark.
Lies? A man claiming to be a colleague of Reshma Begum, the woman who was dramatically pulled from the rubble of the Bangladesh clothing factory collapse, claims her inspiring rescue is a fabrication
Its collapse is considered to be the deadliest garment factory accident in history.
But a co-worker is now accusing the 19-year-old of faking the length of time she had been trapped in the ruins, and being part of a hoax by the authorities to make up for the bad publicity following the disaster, in which 1,221 people died and about 2,500 were injured.
The male co-worker told local journalists that she had in fact escaped from the eight-storey Rana Plaza building in Savar, Dhaka, on the day it came down, scrambling from the rubble alongside him.
The man told local journalists: ‘We escaped together. We both walked away from the rubble. We spent two days in hospital but then she vanished. The next time I saw her was on TV 17 days later. They said it was a miracle, but it was a fake.’
Reshma and her family’s lives have been transformed since the accident. She now has a lucrative job at a luxury hotel.
Miss Begum told local television – in an interview beamed around the world – how she had managed to survive those long days by eating leftover food she found in fellow workers’ lunch boxes and drinking water dribbling from a broken pipe.
It was reported at the time that she had been trapped under a concrete slab but stayed alive thanks to an air pocket left by a Muslim prayer room in the basement.
She was photographed being carried on a stretcher from the ruins of the building on May 10, her face and clothes covered in white dust.
But Miss Begum’s landlady told journalists from Dhaka’s pro-opposition newspaper Amar Desh she had escaped from the building on the same day it had collapsed and had received treatment at the nearby Enam hospital.
It is now being claimed that in order to cover up the hoax, people living near the factory were curiously forced to move out of their homes the day before the young woman’s ‘rescue’. They were allowed back once she was ‘saved’.
To add to the mystery, police imposed a 24-hour ban on filming of the continuing rescue operation.
Investigative journalists have also questioned Miss Begum’s apparently ‘good condition’ for someone who had supposedly spent 17 days trapped in the ruins of a building.
‘She said she had to claw her way through bricks and debris to reach water in dead victims’ rucksacks but her hands and fingernails did not show the marks you would expect,’ said Shishir Abdullah, a local journalist.
Investigators claim Miss Begum’s appearance and injuries in the famous pictures are not consistent with 17 days trapped under rubble
Collapse: The building housed factories that made low-cost garments for Western brands. Authorities vowed to clamp down on unsafe working practices in the wake of the disaster
‘Also, her eyes were wide open when they pulled her out and she did not appear to be sensitive to the bright sunlight. Her sari was not ripped or torn and appeared clean.
‘People were suspicious but the government made a huge fuss of hailing it as a miracle. People were taken in. Everyone was fooled.’
Miss Begum, who has since been ‘awarded’ with a £600-a-month job at a luxury hotel in Dhaka, hit back angrily at the accusations.
‘Where I was, you were not there, so you have no idea,’ she said.
Her mother, Jobeda, who says she is thankful that because of her daughter’s courage the family have a new life, insisted: ‘Her escape is the miracle everyone thinks it is.’
The Bangladesh army, which led the search, rescue and body-recovery operation, has yet to respond to claims of a hoax.
THE SHAME OF A NATION: THE FASHION INDUSTRY’S BIGGEST DISASTER
When the Rana Plaza factory building crashed down in April, 1,129 people were killed.
Many of those freed are still recovering.Rescuers with no medical training were forced to perform amputations on the spot to free them without anaesthetic.
Bangladesh’s government and garment manufacturers are campaigning to close dangerous factories and to make safety a priority for the country’s most valuable export industry.
Bangladeshi garment factories are routinely built without consulting engineers.
Many are located in commercial or residential buildings not designed to withstand the stress of heavy manufacturing.
Some add illegal extra floors atop support columns too weak to hold them, according to a survey of scores of factories by an engineering university that was shown to The Associated Press.
A separate inspection, by the garment industry, of 200 risky factories found that 10 per cent of them were so dangerous that they were ordered to shut.
The textiles minister said a third inspection, conducted by the government, could show that as many as 300 factories were unsafe.
Source: The Daily Mail