Bangladesh miracle survivor 'doing great', says doctor

SAVAR, Bangladesh (AFP) - Bangladeshi doctors treating a "miracle" survivor pulled from ruins of a collapsed building after 17 days said on Saturday she was doing "great" and had been reunited with her family.

Ms Reshma, 18, a seamstress dug out from the rubble of the garment factory complex on Friday, "never gave up hope" she would be rescued from the ruins of one of the world's worst industrial disasters, army doctor Fakrul Islam told AFP.

"She's doing great," he said after speaking to her on Saturday morning, adding she was suffering from the effects of a lack of food as she had survived on just "four pieces of biscuits."

"She's eating food and fruits. All her vital organs are okay," Islam said, as the death toll from the disaster reached 1,084.

Ms Reshma had a "very good sleep and was reunited with her family including her mother, brother and sister", army captain Ibrahimul Islam told AFP.

He said she told him she found the biscuits and water in an air pocket she reached after the April 24 cave-in and added she might regain more memories as her condition improves.

"Only then we can get a clear picture of how she survived miraculously for 17 days under such hot, humid conditions," he said.

Rescuers found her hours after officials announced the death toll had surged past the 1,000 mark and they had long abandoned hope of locating more survivors.

They were stunned to hear a woman's voice calling for help before managing to free her in a 45-minute operation aired live on television and watched by crowds at the scene who were asked by clerics to pray for her rescue.

Cries of "Allahu Akbar" - "God is great" - rang out as she was pulled from the wreckage.

After emerging, Ms Reshma managed a weak smile to onlookers before being whisked to a waiting ambulance and away from the ruined Rana Plaza complex on capital Dhaka's outskirts.

"I called but nobody heard me. I heard noises, but nobody listened to me," she told Somoy TV later in an interview.

Her family, from a remote northern village, was overjoyed at her survival, calling it a "miracle".

"We had lost all hope of finding her alive. We visited every hospital... the mortuaries and checked every dead body," Ms Reshma's brother, Zahidul Islam, told AFP.

Bangladesh's fire service chief Ahmed Ali told AFP MS Reshma was found between a beam and column in the wreckage of the nine-storey complex.

"We first saw a pipe moving. We removed some gravel and concrete. We found her standing," said Major Moazzem, who goes by one name.

Mr Jamil Ahmed, another rescuer, said bulldozers turning over rubble in the quest to recover bodies were stopped as soon as rescuers realised Ms Reshma was alive.

"She told us: 'My name is Reshma, please save me, please save me, brother'," he said.

"Major Moazzem slipped into the hole and took her into his arms and then we pulled her out." Reshma's survival is one of the most remarkable of recent years, though not a record.

In Pakistan, on December 12, 2005, a 40-year-old woman was rescued from the ruins of her house in Kashmir two months after a quake. A 27-year-old man spent 27 days buried under the rubble of the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

The rescue of Reshma has brought "renewed vigour" to the recovery efforts, army rescue officer Major Delwar Hossain told AFP.

"We've got new spirit. We're working extremely carefully in case we have another miraculous survivor." Army spokesman Lieutenant Mir Rabbi said the death toll reached 1,084 on Saturday as dozens more bodies were recovered overnight.

Over 3,000 workers were on shift when the building caved in, to make clothing for Western brands such as Britain's Primark and Italy's Benetton.

A preliminary government probe blamed vibrations from four giant generators on the upper floors for triggering the collapse.

Police have arrested 12 people including the plaza's owner and four factory bosses over the tragedy.