Boy, 8, freed from quake rubble

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The Independent Online

of Reuters

EGION - Rescue workers yesterday freed an eight-year-old boy buried alive for more than 40 hours after an earthquake in this Greek town reduced his apartment block to rubble.

Andreas Bogdanos, whose grandmother died in the quake, was brought to safety through a long, narrow tunnel burrowed into a mass of concrete and debris by Greek and Swiss rescue workers.

Bystanders in Egion, hit early on Thursday by the earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, cheered and clapped as the boy was carried to an ambulance. The last hours of the rescue were televised.

"It's the first good news in all this tragedy," said Education Minister George Papandreou. "He's a fighter, full of life and energy and that's why he survived."

Rescue workers, who dug three five-and-a-half yard tunnels to reach the boy, hugged and cried after he was pulled out. They said he was brave and had even joked during his ordeal.

"His vital signs are good. He had some pain in his leg but I could not tell if it was broken," said medic Dimitris Pyrros.

At least 20 people, including 10 French tourists and an Italian woman, were killed and about 60 injured by the quake which struck the coastal region on the Gulf of Corinth 90 miles west of Athens.

All deaths were in the Eliki hotel or the apartment block where Andreas was found and his aunt, a mentally retarded mute who is confined to a wheelchair, was still trapped.

The woman, Maria Elvira Frangonikolopoulou, was located by sniffer dogs along with the boy. The discovery raised hopes that about 10 people buried in the apartment block might still be alive.

Rescue workers said tunnelling through the heavy debris was laborious work.

The quake caused destruction throughout the western Greek region near the port of Patras and more than 15,000 people were forced to flee their homes.