From factory to 5-star hotel for Bangladesh's 17-day survivor

A 19-year-old seamstress who survived for 17 days in the rubble of a collapsed garment factory building in Bangladesh left the hospital on Thursday with a new job at an international hotel chain.

Reshma (18) who became a national heroine after the tragedy, which claimed more than 1,100 lives, was in good spirits and looked healthy at a ceremony at the military facility where she was admitted on May 10.

Getting her life back on track: Reshma Begum vowed never again to work in a garment factory after she was rescued from the Rana Plaza building. Pics/AFP

“I feel great now. I am recovered mentally and physically,” she said, smiling. But after nearly a month of treatment, initially in intensive care, she admitted she was still troubled by nightmares about her ordeal beneath the wreckage of the collapsed Rana Plaza building.

“I still get frightened in the night,” she said dressed in a peacock green dress and a headscarf. “Whenever I think of those days I feel bad and frightened. I have forgotten most of what I did under the rubble.”

The teenager, who uses only one name, drank rainwater and foraged food from co-workers’ lunch boxes to survive after her nine-storey workplace collapsed on April 24.

Two days after her rescue, she said she would never return to the accident-prone Bangladesh garment sector, the world’s second biggest, worth $20 billion a year.

Reshma, from a remote village in the western border district of Dinajpurhad, began work in the building just 22 days before it fell apart. She was being paid a monthly salary of 4,700 taka ($60).

She has since been offered jobs in various hotels and charities, but decided to take up an opportunity at the luxury Westin Hotel in the capital Dhaka.

“I never thought that I would get my life back again when I was trapped under the rubble,” she said. Azim Shah, general manager of the Hotel Westin, told reporters he was proud Reshma was joining his team.

“We’re sure this young girl will be exceptional in her new job,” he said.

1,129 The number of people who died in the garment factory collapse 

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