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Published: Thursday, 6/6/2013

From factory to five-star hotel for Bangladesh’s 17-day survivor of factory fire


DHAKA — A teenage seamstress who survived 17 days trapped under the rubble of a collapsed Bangladesh garment factory walked smiling out of a military hospital today and into a new job in a five-star hotel.

“I never dreamed I would return again, I am grateful to everyone,” said 19-year-old Reshma Begum, wearing a bright green scarf and flanked by soldiers in fatigues at an event at the hospital where she was recovering from her ordeal.

“I could not imagine, from where I was, to where I am now.”

Like many other traumatised survivors, Begum vowed never to return to work in the garment industry, the main employer for millions of poor women from rural Bangladesh.

Accepting a job with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc’s five star Westin Dhaka property, Begum will trade in the monthly wage of $65 that she used to earn for a basic salary of $450 in her new role welcoming guests.

“We are proud to have her on board with us. I hope we can together create a good future and career for this young woman,” said Westin Dhaka manager Azim Shah.

Soldiers pulled Begum from a dark, tomb-like chamber under what remained of the eight-storey Rana Plaza complex on May 10, hours after rescuers found the body of the 1,000th victim of the disaster, one of history’s worst industrial accidents.

The final death toll reached 1,129.

Begum apparently survived thanks to a small bottle of water and four packets of biscuits she had taken to work that day.

Factories at Rana Plaza made clothes for brands including British discount fashion retailer Primark, owned by Associated British Foods Plc, and Canada’s Loblaw Cos Ltd as well as Spanish retailer Mango.

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