Page last updated at 05:19 GMT, Sunday, 24 January 2010

'An extraordinary rescue operation'

Adam Mynott
BBC News, Port-au-Prince

Wismond Exantus, rescued by an international 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 is now recovering in a French field hospital

It took two-and-a-half hours for the rescue of Wismond Exantus to take place.

It might never happened, had not a member of his family approached a Greek journalist on the street and said they had heard noises coming from underneath a building.

The Greek journalist said he also heard the noises, and approached a Greek rescue team. They then went into operation in combination with French and American teams, and pulled the man free from the rubble.

As he was gingerly put on a stretcher and carried towards a waiting ambulance, WismondExantus smiled. He didn't say anything but he was, if not totally unharmed, clearly in a very good state of health.

I understand that he has recovered more in the following hours.

Silent crowds

It was an extraordinary operation.

At various times the rescue teams appealed for complete silence.

The crowds that were watching - Haitians, the rescue teams and journalists - said absolutely nothing and stayed still while the rescuers listened to what was going on deep in the building.

Lieutenant Colonel Christophe Renou: ''He is in a pretty good condition''

WismondExantus was trapped under five or six metres of timber and debris, and it was thought he was possibly trapped with other people who might still be alive.

But during the course of the rescue, he told his rescuers that the noise and activity from others trapped underneath the building had ceased about two days earlier.

He has now been taken to hospital.

What is perhaps remarkable about this rescue operation, quite apart from the joy that took place when he was pulled clear, was the fact that it came just hours after an end to the rescue phase had been announced by the Haitian government.

Many people say this was too early, and the rescue of WismondExantus will have lent weight to their argument.

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