Man rescued from Haiti quake rubble after 11 days
Sunday 24 January 2010
A man has been rescued alive from the rubble of a hotel 11 days after the Haitian earthquake - despite the country's government declaring the search for survivors over.
Wismond Exantus, in his 20s, was pulled to safety yesterday in front of cheering onlookers - telling rescuers he survived by drinking cola, beer and eating cookies.
It came as British firefighters returning home after their own life-saving efforts praised the determination of the Haitian people in the face of the disaster.
Dozens of onlookers wearing masks against the stench of the city's decaying bodies watched and cheered when Exantus was carried from a narrow tunnel on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance.
He said later he survived by diving under a desk when the rubble started to fall around him. Trapped in such a small space, he had lie on his back the entire time and survived by drinking cola, beer and cookies.
"I would eat anything I found," he said. "After the quake I didn't know when it was day and when it was night."
"It was God who was tucking me away in his arms. It gave me strength," he added.
Earlier yesterday, the United Nations announced the Haitian government had declared an end to rescue operations.
But dozens of international teams continued to pick through the rubble of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake which struck on Tuesday last week and has killed an estimated 200,000 people.
UK crews returned home yesterday to their families having pulled four people alive from the rubble, including a two-year-old toddler called Mia, after being scrambled 12 days ago.
Speaking at Manchester Airport, firefighter Andrew Roughley, 48, of Monton, Greater Manchester, said: "The determination of the people out there is something to be admired. They are very appreciative of what you do."
Operations commander Pete Stevenson, 48, of Royton, said people in Haiti were "crying" when his men left the country.
"They were so glad to see the rescuers," he said.
"They were friendly towards us. The people were crying when we were leaving.
"We plan to keep in touch with Mia. She came to our camp with her mother three days after we rescued her. She is a character. She was in fine health and was singing and dancing.
"It was a humbling experience."
Firefighter John Hughes, 38, of St Helens, said his first international mission was a "great experience".
He too recalled meeting Mia, who was rescued from her collapsed kindergarten school in Port-au-Prince, and her mother.
"Her mother thanked us all for the help we gave her and the British Government for sending us over," he said.
"She even blessed us. It made us feel very proud."
At least 132 people were pulled alive from the rubble of the devastated country, the United Nations (UN) said.
But countless dead remained buried in thousands of collapsed and toppled buildings in the capital Port-au-Prince, while as many as 200,000 have fled the city of two million, the US Agency for International Development said.
One mother still missing her children told reporters it was too soon to give up.
Nicole Abraham, 33, whose three children aged four, six and 15 have been missing since the earthquake struck on January 12, said: "Maybe there's a chance they're still alive."
Life-saving efforts continued in the wake of a global, star-studded fundraising effort in the form of the Hope For Haiti Now telethon.
The show, broadcast from New York, London, Los Angeles and Haiti yesterday, included musical performances by a variety of superstars, including Beyonce, Madonna, Taylor Swift, U2's Bono and the Edge and Keith Urban.
It is said to have raised 57 million dollars (£35m) so far.
Donations by Britons to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal have topped £42 million.
A cover of REM's haunting ballad Everybody Hurts is also being released as a Live Aid-style Haiti charity single, featuring the likes of singer Leona Lewis, boyband JLS and veteran rocker Rod Stewart.
Other acts confirmed as appearing on the record include Susan Boyle, Paolo Nutini, Mika and James Morrison.
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