Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Haiti quake: Survivors' stories

Stories of survival after being trapped by Haiti's devastating earthquake have been few and far between. But people have been buried in the rubble and still managed to survive a natural disaster that has killed many thousands of people. Some of their stories are below.

Darlene Etienne rests in a French field hospital after being rescued in Port-au-Prince, 27 Jan
Darlene Etienne was found when neighbours heard her weakly calling

Darlene Etienne was pulled, barely alive, from the wreckage of a house near her college in Port-au-Prince, 15 days after the earthquake struck.

Rescuers said the 16-year-old, who was severely dehydrated and covered in dust, possibly survived by drinking bathwater but could not have lasted much longer.

She was found when neighbours heard her calling weakly from the rubble. A French rescue team took an hour to dig her out.

After being given oxygen and water, Darlene was taken to a French medical ship for treatment for dehydration and a leg injury.

"She just said, 'Thank you.' She's very weak," Samuel Bernes, head of the rescue team, told the AFP news agency.

Rico Dibrivell is checked by US soldiers after being rescued
Rico Dibrivell was rescued from the rubble after being trapped for 12 days

Trapped in one of the aftershocks that rattled Port-au-Prince in the days that followed the earthquake, Rico Dibrivell was pulled from the rubble after spending 12 days trapped in the debris of a shop.

The store had been repeatedly looted and, according to the Associated Press, Mr Dibrivell was initially discovered by a group of Haitians who then called on US troops to help release him.

Wearing only his underpants and caked in dust when he was pulled out, Mr Dibrivell was dehydrated, looked gaunt and had a broken leg.

Wismond Exantus Jean Pierre, rescued by a French search and rescue team after being trapped in rubble for 11 days in the aftermath of the massive earthquake, lies in a French military hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan 23, 2010
Wismond Exantus said he had survived on Coca-Cola and snacks

Wismond Exantus was working in the grocery store in the Napoli Inn Hotel when the building collapsed.

Trapped for 11 days, he was found in good health after a joint operation by French, Greek and American rescue teams.

His family had alerted a Greek rescue team when they heard his voice from underneath the rubble.

He said he had survived by diving under a desk when the building collapsed around him, and had subsisted on a diet of Coca-Cola and biscuits.

"I would eat anything I could find," he told AP.

"It was God who was tucking me away in his arms. It gave me strength," he added.


Emmannuel Buso was rescued on Friday after an Israeli search team was approached by his relatives asking for help.

Members of the team pulled away debris from where his house had been and called out - to their surprise he responded.

Emmannuel Buso
Emmannuel Buso said he had dreamed he could hear his mother crying

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr Buso described coming out of the shower when the quake hit.

"I felt the house dancing around me," he said. "I didn't know if I was up or down."

He said he had passed out in the rubble, and that he had heard his mother's cries in his dreams.

He had had a little space around him when the furniture in his room collapsed, but he had not had any food.

He had drunk his own urine to keep thirst at bay.

"I am here today because God wants it," he said.


Marie Carida was found severely dehydrated after 10 days in the rubble. The 84-year-old woman is being treated by doctors at the main city hospital, where she is in a critical condition.

"I'm trying to find out how I can help her survive," Dr Ernest Benjamin said. "It's worth everything to try to save her."

Her son said he had heard her cries on Thursday morning and, almost a day later, he dug her out with the help of friends.


Mendji Bahina Sanon was pulled out after spending eight days buried under Haiti's rubble.

One of five children - four of whom survived the earthquake - she was rescued after being trapped beneath the remains of her home in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Mendji Bahina Sanon
Mendji asked for cornflakes after being pulled out after eight days

"I had left my five children at home. I was panic-stricken. The two-storey building had collapsed. I thought they were all dead," said her mother, a cleaner for the UN, describing the hours after the earthquake struck.

Helped by her neighbours, she continued to search for her missing daughter even after finding the body of the young girl's five-year-old brother.

On Wednesday, she described hearing a neighbour cry out: "I heard your daughter, she called out."

"I didn't believe it, but I rushed, the neighbours dug, she was alive and they dug her out. She talked to me and asked me for milk and cornflakes and then she fainted."

Being treated in hospital, doctors say she is regaining strength and doing well though she is troubled by nightmares, begging her mother not to "leave her in the hole".

The surgeon treating her at a French field hospital described her survival as as "a miracle".

"She came back to life bit by bit. She is blessed by the gods," said Dominique Jean.

Lozama Hotteline with rescuers, Port-au-Prince, Haiti (19 Jan 2010)
Rescue workers said it was remarkable Ms Hotteline was found alive

Ms Hotteline had been in an apartment over a supermarket in Port-au-Prince when it collapsed.

After seven days in the rubble with no food or water, she was finally pulled out by Turkish, French and Haitian teams.

One rescue worker said it was a miracle they had been able to save her.

Video footage showed Ms Hotteline smiling and chatting to the rescuers as they carried her away on a stretcher at around midnight.

"We pulled someone out seven days after an earthquake - that is quite extraordinary," said Bruno Besson of French group Rescuers Without Borders, which co-ordinated the effort.


The tiny baby's parents had given up hope that she was alive after their house collapsed with her on the upper floor, French media reported.

Workers were in the process of demolishing what remained of the building in Jacmel when they found her.

By the time she was rescued, uninjured, on 19 January, she had spent half her life trapped in rubble.

"This wasn't the way Jesus wanted the baby to die," her grandfather, Michelet Joassaint, was quoted by the Times as saying.

"Everybody knew the baby was dead, except the Lord."

South African rescue teams with Ena Zizi, Port-au-Prince, Haiti (19 Jan 2010)
Ms Zizi said she had been praying constantly while lying in the rubble

Mexican and South African rescue teams pulled Ena Zizi out of the rubble almost exactly one week after the quake struck.

She had been attending a church meeting in the home of Haiti's Roman Catholic archbishop, when it collapsed around her.

"We kept working until I could reach the woman and I felt she grabbed my hand and squeezed it strongly and I felt that God had touched my hand," said one of the Mexican rescuers.

"I could kiss the hand and she called me 'son'."

Ms Zizi was dehydrated and had a dislocated hip and broken leg but sang as she was carried away on a stretcher.

She said her faith had kept her going and she had prayed constantly during her ordeal. Her son Joseph said it was a miracle she had survived.

A doctor attends to a baby in Port-au-Prince, 18 January
The little girl was covered in dust, but otherwise healthy

Nurses at Port-au-Prince's main hospital greeted a baby girl with loud applause on Monday, after she survived six days buried under the rubble of her home, the AFP news agency reports.

"This is incredible, she has no injuries," said a nurse as she gave the child water and carefully washed off the dust that covered her small body from head to toe.

The girl is thought to be about 18 months. Her name is not known and her family are thought to have been killed in the quake.

She is the second baby to be unearthed in Haiti in as many days.

Medics at an Israeli field hospital outside the capital treated Jean-Louis Brahms, eight months old, who was rescued after spending five days trapped under what used to be his house.

Baby Jean-Louis was close to death when a neighbour heard his cries and alerted rescuers and his parents - who had given up hope of finding him alive.

French and US teams try to rescue Marie-France in Port-au-Prince
Rescue teams laboured for 12 hours to save Marie-France

French and US rescue crews worked late into the night on Sunday to rescue 22-year-old Marie-France, who was trapped behind a steel door in the rubble of a collapsed row of shops.

The teams broke about a dozen saws as they cut their way through the double-reinforced steel door.

At one point, they lowered a doctor - dangling by his feet - into the narrow tunnel they had cut, to attend to the young woman.

Unfortunately, her arm - trapped under a concrete beam - had to be amputated before they could extract her.


A Peruvian team managed to pull Maxine Fallon from the remains of a flattened school on Sunday.

The UN and the host country decide when to call off the searches for those trapped, and to focus instead on looking after the survivors.
The average time for this switch is between five and seven days.
Individuals have been known to survive up to 13 days trapped if they have access to water.

Ms Fallon said she had prayed fiercely for someone to find her. "I had hoped I would be rescued," she told CNN.

Reporters said she was drifting in and out of consciousness when she was freed.

Rescuers went to the scene after buried survivors begged for help via text messages. It is unclear if the messages came from Ms Fallon, or if others were still waiting to be rescued nearby.


Rick Santos, a 47-year-old aid worker, said he felt "moments of just joy" after being pulled from the debris of the Montana hotel on Friday, some 50 hours after he and four colleagues were buried there.

He told the BBC they spent three "very dark nights" trapped in the dust and darkness, with only one lollipop - which they passed around.

Mr Santos, who heads IMA World Health, said he "can't begin to describe" how he felt after he was rescued by French firefighters.

"I looked up and saw stars and that was amazing. Then I called my wife and said 'Sweetie, I'm out' - and she said, 'I know, I saw you come out on TV'," Mr Santos told the BBC World Service.

Also rescued along with Mr Santos was Sarla Chand, a 65-year-old physician from New Jersey. But two of their colleagues were not so lucky - they later died of their injuries.

"I want to remember them," said Mr Santos. "A lot of people died and we are praying for them too."

The moment Nazer Erne emerged in the arms of a rescuer (ABC TV)
The moment six-year-old Nazer Erne emerged in the arms of a rescuer

On Sunday, five days after the quake hit, American rescuers managed to save two children trapped under the rubble of a collapsed home in Port-au-Prince's Delmas neighbourhood.

A six-year-old boy, Nazer Erne, was pulled out first, looking gaunt and covered in dust. But he smiled to the paramedics from his stretcher, saying he felt fine. Medics say he had chipped his tooth.

Soon after Nazer, the team from South Florida pulled out a 14-year-old girl, named Frangina. As she was carried away by medics, she cried out that a third child buried in the house along with them had died.

Jens Kristensen smiles after being rescued from the rubble of UN headquarters after five days
Jens Kristensen emerged without a scratch on him

Also on Sunday, crews rescued the UN's Danish civil affairs officer, Jens Kristensen, who was found fully conscious under the wreckage of its five-storey headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

"It's a miracle really that he has been drawn out, alive and no damage at all to his body," his mother, Hanne Tranum Kristensen, told the BBC's World Today programme from Denmark.

More than 300 UN employees are missing - many still buried in the rubble of four UN facilities around Port-au-Prince.

Gilles being discharged from hospital
Frances Gilles managed to call a relative on his mobile phone

An Israeli rescue team managed to cut a small tunnel through the ruins of the national tax office to save its administrative director.

Frances Gilles, 59, was freed after eight hours of painstaking and dangerous effort.

He said he had heard voices and cars for days, but had lost the strength to shout.

"I think I am privileged and my rescue is like a miracle because at one time I thought I would be abandoned," he told the BBC.

Mr Gilles had managed to call a relative from his mobile phone, giving his exact location.


A seven-year-old girl survived more than four days in a supermarket that collapsed around her, the New York Times reported.

Rescuers said they heard a small voice from deep in a pile of rubble at the Caribbean Supermarket in the Delmas neighbourhood late on Saturday.

American and Turkish rescue workers then reached the girl, who said she had made it through with hope and by snacking on the supermarket's dried fruit rolls.


UK firefighters pulled two-year-old Haitian girl Mia from the rubble where she had been trapped for three days. Officers from the city of Manchester said the operation was "lengthy and difficult" in Haiti's searing heat.

She was trapped beneath piles of rubble when her kindergarten totally collapsed.

Chief Officer Mike Thomas said: "This is what we do the job for. The conditions we are working in are pretty dire. This is a real bonus to us all."

Mia's rescue came a few hours after Spanish rescuers pulled another two-year-old child, Redjeson Hausteen Claude, from the rubble. Covered with dust, he seemed to smile as he was reunited with his mother.


Many of the thousands of UN peacekeepers, diplomats and development experts who live and work in Haiti were among those affected by the earthquake. At least 100 are still missing.

Estonian protection officer Tarmo Joveer moments after being rescued
Tarmo Joveer was given water via a rubber tube

On Thursday US Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the tale of one UN staff member found beneath the rubble of the international body's collapsed headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

Estonian protection officer Tarmo Joveer, Mr Ban said, was only found after "scratching sounds" were heard and was kept alive by being "given water through a rubber pipe". He was eventually rescued from where he was trapped, beneath some 4m (12ft) of rubble.

"It was a small, small miracle during a night which brought few other miracles," he said, adding that Mr Joveer had been taken to a hospital in Argentina for treatment.


Frank Thorp, a US citizen in Haiti, says he drove about 100 miles (160km) to Port-au-Prince immediately after Tuesday's earthquake to rescue his 23-year-old wife Jillian, an aid worker.

Jillian Thorp
Jillian Thorp was trapped underneath about a foot of concrete

"I'd spoken to her on Skype for about 10 seconds, she said that she was trapped. And that's all that I knew. It was absolutely terrifying," Mr Thorp told CBS's Early Show.

Mr Thorp says that their entire house - a three-storey concrete building - had collapsed and Jillian and one other person were trapped under 30cm (12in) of concrete.

We had to plough bricks and bricks and bricks... and doors and metal away for at least an hour before we were able to get her and her co-worker out
Frank Thorp

"I jumped into the hole and I was able to see her wave her hand; I couldn't see her whole body... I could hear her voice..."

He said his wife was saying: "Just get me out of here!"

"We had to plough bricks and bricks and bricks... and doors and metal away for at least an hour before we were able to get her and her co-worker out," he said.

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