toll surpasses 1,000
SAVAR, Bangladesh — For 17 days, the seamstress lay trapped in a dark basement pocket beneath thousands of tons of wreckage as temperatures outside climbed into the mid-90s. She rationed food and water. She banged a pipe to attract attention. She was fast losing hope of ever making it out alive.
In the ruins of the collapsed eight-store garment factory building above her, the frantic rescue operation had long ago ended. It had turned instead into a grim search for the decaying bodies of the more than 1,000 people killed in the world’s worst garment industry disaster.
“No one heard me. It was so bad for me. I never dreamed I’d see the daylight again,” the seamstress, Reshma Begum, told Somoy TV from her hospital bed after her astonishing rescue on Friday.
The miraculous moment came when salvage workers finally heard Begum’s banging. They pulled her to safety. She was in shockingly good condition, wearing a violet outfit with a large, bright pink scarf.
“I heard her say, ‘I am alive, please save me.’ I gave her water. She was OK,” said Miraj Hossain, a volunteer who crawled through the debris to help cut Begum free.
Criminal investigation in Texas plant explosion
WACO, Texas — Texas law enforcement officials on Friday launched a criminal investigation into the massive fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people last month, after weeks of largely treating the blast as an industrial accident.
The announcement came the same day federal agents said they found bomb-making materials belonging to a paramedic who helped evacuate residents the night of the explosion. Bryce Reed was arrested early Friday on a charge of possessing a destructive device, but law enforcement officials said they had not linked the charge to the April 17 fire and blast at West Fertilizer Co.
“It is important to emphasize that at this point, no evidence has been uncovered to indicate any connection to the events surrounding the fire and subsequent explosion ... and the arrest of Bryce Reed by the ATF,” the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Texas Department of Public Safety said earlier Friday that the agency had instructed the Texas Rangers and the sheriff’s department to conduct a criminal probe into the explosion. The agencies will join the State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which have been leading the investigation and never ruled out that a crime may have been committed.
“This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said.
Pakistan election could shatter status quo
ISLAMABAD — Despite a bloody campaign marred by Taliban attacks, Pakistan holds historic elections today pitting a former cricket star against a two-time prime minister once exiled by the army and an incumbent blamed for power blackouts and inflation.
The vote marks the first time in Pakistan’s 65-year history that a civilian government has completed its full term and handed over power in democratic elections. Previous governments have been toppled by military coups or sacked by presidents allied with the powerful army.
Deadly violence struck again Friday, with a pair of bombings against election offices in northwest Pakistan that killed three people and a shooting that killed a candidate in the southern city of Karachi. More than 130 people have been killed in the run-up to the vote, mostly secular party candidates and workers. Most attacks have been traced to Taliban militants, who have vowed to disrupt a democratic process they say runs counter to Islam.
The vote is being watched closely by Washington since the U.S. relies on the nuclear-armed country for help in fighting Islamic militants in the region.
By wire sources