Saturday 3 December 2016

Survivor lived on whisky, Coke, beer and sweets

Nick Allen in Port-au-Prince

Published 25/01/2010 | 05:00

A RESCUE worker told how she crawled through the rubble of the Haitian earthquake to free a survivor entombed for 11 days.

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Carmen Michalska (36) squeezed down a tiny hole to get to Wismond Exantus Jean-Pierre (24), who was trapped under 20ft of tangled concrete slabs, wooden beams and corrugated iron.

When the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck on January 12 he was working in a grocery shop under the two-storey Napoli Inn hotel in the centre of Port-au-Prince. He survived by drinking beer, Coca-Cola and whisky and nibbling on sweets.

Moments after she emerged from the wreckage, Ms Michalska said: "To save somebody's life was amazing.

"When we got here we started pulling away the rubble with our hands and tools we found in the street. People were saying 'There's someone alive down there' and we were saying 'Are you sure? Are you sure?'

"We got communication with him and then, when the heavy equipment turned up, they made a gap but it wasn't very wide. The guys were too big to get in so I said 'I'll go' because I'm only 5ft 5in."

Rescue co-ordinators sent her and a French female colleague into the tunnel.

"It was a tight squeeze and rather smelly and claustrophobic with concrete overhead," said Ms Michalska.

"When we got down to the bottom I could see his head behind a piece of wood. He smiled and was so happy to see us.

"He held our light for us while we sawed the wood in front of him away. I couldn't talk to him because I don't speak French but he said 'Merci'."

Mr Jean-Pierre told her there were four men and a girl below him, but rescue workers later said they had no indication that anyone was left alive inside.

Looters

Ms Michalska who lives in Sheffield, England, and works in security, was attached to a Greek rescue team who were first on the scene.

They fought their way through gangs of machete-wielding looters to get there after hearing reports of a survivor.

"It was horrendous. We had to run from across the street," she said.

Her Greek colleague, Apostolos Dedas, said: "We nearly died on the way here. We were attacked by the locals. They were looting and police were shooting."

During the two-and-a-half hours it took to extract Mr Jean-Pierre looting continued nearby. Enso Jean-Pierre, the rescued man's 23-year-old brother, who lost six relatives in the earthquake, said: "I had a dream that my brother called to me and told me he was alive."

Later, lying on a camp bed at a French field hospital, Mr Jean-Pierre looked healthy and said he felt "good". Paramedics said he was tired and dehydrated but had no broken bones.

"I was hungry but every night I thought about the revelation that I would survive," Mr Jean-Pierre said.

"I would eat anything I found. I didn't know when it was day and when it was night. I prayed.

"It's a big miracle for me. When I leave the hospital I will give my heart to the Lord because he saved my life."

He was knocked out by the earthquake and woke up to find himself under the rubble. His mobile phone battery had run out so he could not call for help.

Nearby he found a large bottle of Dewar's White Label whisky which he drank when he was in pain.

He also drank large quantities of soft drink and beer and ate sweets and crisps. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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