Monday 26 September 2016

Survivor reveals her 33 hours of despair buried alive

Anil Giri in Kathmandu

Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30

Rishi Khanal, an injured survivor is taken out by French rescue teams from a damaged building following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: Reuters
Rishi Khanal, an injured survivor is taken out by French rescue teams from a damaged building following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: Reuters

Sunita Sitaula's husband and two sons escaped. They ran from their pink, five-storey building as the earthquake struck. She was less lucky. The building collapsed and she was buried in her kitchen.

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For almost two days, she heard nothing but the sounds of a city in ruins. Then, after 33 hours peering at a tiny ray of light, she heard the voice of a rescuer.

Recalling the earthquake, she said: "I was washing dishes inside the kitchen. All of a sudden, the entire house started trembling. My husband and children managed to escape but I could not. I was trapped inside the house. I was helpless."

Her body was covered by a vast chunk of the kitchen floor, she said. "I was helpless and hopeless, there was no chance of moving. I prayed to God," she added. She said she spent much of the first day, Saturday, in tears.

At some point, she said, a voice could be heard outside. "Someone is alive here!" But then Sunita remembers a man saying: "Let's leave here. Go to other side." Her hopes dashed, she was certain she would die.

"Save the lives of the people who are alive," Sunita remembers shouting through the chink of light. "Forget about those who died. I did not see any ray of hope. Probably, those hours were of the longest moments of my life. There was lots of fear and anxiety.

"I remembered my husband and child, no one came to rescue and those who gave a little hope to me did not come back," she said. "All of a sudden on Monday afternoon, I heard a voice." Sunita was rescued, and taken to one of the makeshift hospitals that have sprung up across Nepal's devastated capital. Unlike many thousands of others, she was unhurt.

"I was really surprised," she said of her lack of serious injury. "My health was fine even after being trapped for 33 hours."

She said she was buried under wood, not cement and bricks. "If it had been cement, I would have been dead," she said. Her story of survival amid the death of the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks is not unique. The Nepalese army was yesterday said to have rescued a man trapped for 62 hours.

And Chandra Wani Gajamu (35) was also rescued alive in Balaju after 53 hours yesterday morning. (© Independent News Service)

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