Friday 24 November 2017

Wife had already bought coffin for man pulled alive from Ecuador earthquake rubble

Residents try to recuperate some of their belongings buried in the rubble on a neighborhood block that was destroyed by the earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Residents try to recuperate some of their belongings buried in the rubble on a neighborhood block that was destroyed by the earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
People gather at a provisonal shelter on a hill close to Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
Rescue workers search for survivors at the Royal Hotel that collapsed during the earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
People are pictured at a provisonal shelter on a hill close to Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
Antonio Chica, 33, recovers his roosters from debris at his house in Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
Antonio Chica, 33, recovers his roosters from debris at his house in Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Cristian Kovadloff and Allen Panchana (Associated Press in Portoviejo, Ecuador)

A man who was pulled alive from the rubble after the devastating earthquake which struck Ecuador has told how his wife had already bought a coffin for his funeral.

Hotel administrator Pablo Cordova was one of a trickle of survivors pulled from the debris after Ecuador's strongest earthquake in decades flattened towns along the coast and killed more than 400 people.

People gather at a provisonal shelter on a hill close to Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
People gather at a provisonal shelter on a hill close to Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Mr Cordova's wife had given up on ever seeing the 51-year-old again after the five-storey Gato de Portoviejo hotel in Portoviejo collapsed on him on Saturday, flattened by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake like the rest of the city centre.

She asked his boss to help her buy his coffin.

Rescue workers search for survivors at the Royal Hotel that collapsed during the earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Rescue workers search for survivors at the Royal Hotel that collapsed during the earthquake in Pedernales, Ecuador, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

But Mr Cordova held out for 36 hours beneath the rubble, drinking his own urine and praying service would be restored before his mobile phone battery died.

He was finally able to call his wife on Monday afternoon and was pulled from the wreckage soon after by a team of rescuers from Colombia.

People are pictured at a provisonal shelter on a hill close to Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
People are pictured at a provisonal shelter on a hill close to Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

"They were organising the funeral, but I've been reborn," Mr Cordova said, grinning from beneath his bushy moustache in a provincial hospital.

"I will have to give that coffin back because I still have a long way to go before I die."

Antonio Chica, 33, recovers his roosters from debris at his house in Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
Antonio Chica, 33, recovers his roosters from debris at his house in Jama, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

On Tuesday, teams from all over the world fanned out across the country's Pacific coastline to look for the dozens of people still missing.

Residents joined in with their bare hands, increasingly desperate as the clock for finding survivors runs down.

"Since Saturday, when this country started shaking, I've slept only two hours and haven't stopped working," said Juan Carranza, one of the firefighters leading the rescue effort in Portoviejo.

In the port city of Manta, a group of about 50 rescuers working with trained dogs, hydraulic jacks and a drill managed to free eight people trapped for more than 32 hours in the rubble of a shopping centre that was flattened by Saturday night's quake.

While the country cheered videos of such rescues, tragedy continued to mount.

At the same shopping centre, authorities were working to free a woman they had found buried alive with a heavy concrete slab pinning her legs when an aftershock forced them to suspend the effort.

When they returned, the debris pile had moved and the woman was dead, said Angel Moreira, a firefighter co-ordinating the effort.

Press Association

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