Haiti has another miraculous survival story. A 24-year-old hotel clerk named Wismond Exantus was pulled from the rubble alive today, even after the government officially called off the search for survivors.
After 11 days trapped beneath the rubble, a 24-year-old Haitian man was pulled out alive near a hotel here Saturday. The dramatic rescue is expected to be one of the last after the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The nearly three-hour rescue operation came the day that the Haitian government instructed search-and-rescue teams to discontinue operations because “hope is unfortunately fading” for the possibility of finding victims alive.
Around 4:30 p.m. local time, French and Greek teams emerged from the rubble near the Neophelli Hotel in Port-au-Prince, in the capital’s shattered downtown. The victim was pulled out on a stretcher to cheers and offered a faint wave back to the crowd. The man, who was smiling and did not have injuries that could be seen from a distance, was taken to the French field hospital nearby. Rescuers said he appeared to have no broken bones.
According to Christophe Renou, a member of the rescue team, the victim had been buried under roughly 30 feet of debris that included concrete and wood. He was able to survive because of an airspace and the fact that a nearby building offered shade from the hot sun. “We assume he had access to water,” Mr. Renou said who thought the location had been a grocery store. “It’s a miracle.”
Authorities learned of the victim’s presence after family members heard his screams, along with those of other people trapped. Search teams arrived at 2 p.m., found him on a radar device and made voice contact with the victim.
The man said four others had been trapped with him but were no longer moving. Early this evening no other people had been found there.
The discovery of another victim—more than 120 have been rescued so far—could draw into question the Haitian government’s decision to call off search and rescue operations on Saturday, nearly two weeks since the 7.0 earthquake. “We could expect more people are still alive,” said Mr. Renou. But he cautioned, “To find them now will be a question of chance.”
The French team had “stopped proactively” searching following the Haitian government’s decision, Mr. Renou said, but was continuing rescue operations when it received tips from Haitians. He said, “People are still getting SMS” cell-phone text messages from those in the rubble.
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The numbers of people who are rescued alive is few in comparison to fatalities, but with people still sending text messages from under the rubble, how can the government stop search and rescue? These survival stories are the only thing keeping hope alive for some families.