Bangladesh garment industry

Bangladesh army hits back at hoax factory rescue claims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 2:10am

Bangladesh's army has rejected as "vile" newspaper reports that called the rescue of a textile worker trapped for 17 days in a collapsed garment factory a hoax.

A pro-opposition Bangladeshi daily first reported the story last week, branding the rescue of seamstress Reshma fake, and quoting a male colleague as saying she escaped the building with him on the same day it collapsed in April, killing 1,129 people.

A story was also published in the British tabloid the Sunday Mirror, quoting the same worker, who has since gone into hiding.

"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," the Mirror quoted the colleague as saying.

The army, which oversaw the rescue operation, slammed the reports as "misleading, imprudent and fictitious".

"It is a vile attempt to raise questions on the dedication, honesty and humanity of the rescue workers," the army said in a statement.

The army said Reshma was rescued in the presence of numerous television crews and other media. It warned that such newspaper reports risked traumatising her further.

"Publication of this misleading information can even risk her mental health. She is still traumatised," it said.

Reshma became a national heroine after she was rescued from the nine-storey Rana Plaza building that collapsed on April 24, trapping more than 3,000 garment factory workers.

The 18-year-old worker, who spent nearly a month in hospital, initially in intensive care, has told media she survived on rain water and biscuits.

Reshma, who has since been hired by the luxury Westin Hotel in Dhaka as a "public area" ambassador, could not be contacted for comment. The hotel said that permission from the army was needed to talk to her.

Her brother Zahidul Islam also denied the hoax claims, saying "we never doubted it".

"For 17 days after the building collapsed, we searched for her at every hospital including the military hospital and at the morgues. We found her only after her miraculous rescue," he said.