Teenage girl pulled out of rubble in Haiti fifteen days after earthquake

Friday, January 29, 2010

A sixteen-year-old girl, Darlene Etienne, was pulled out from underneath the rubble of a collapsed school in Haiti yesterday, fifteen days after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the country, devastating most buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Etienne had been studying at school in the capital when the tremors stared, collapsing the building. She had apparently survived by drinking water from a bathroom, and the Al Jazeera news agency reports rescuers had heard her mumbling something about having some Coca-Cola.

When pulled from the rubble, she was reportedly dehydrated, but happy. Etienne was taken to a French-run field hospital, and later to a hospital ship moored off the Haitian coast for further treatment. "She just said 'Thank you', she's very weak, which suggests that she's been there for 15 days," said the head of the rescue team that recovered the girl, Samuel Bernes, noting that she was located "in a pocket, surrounded by concrete".

"She couldn't really talk to us or say how long she'd been there but I think she'd been there since the earthquake. I don't think she could have survived even a few more hours," rescuer Claude Fuilla told the Associated Press.

"I don't know how she happened to resist that long," said another rescue worker, JP Malaganne, as quoted by the BBC.

"It all happened very quickly, but rescue teams managed to get her out and she was covered in layers of dust and concrete," said Jonah Hull, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, describing the rescue effort as being "a delicate process".

Five days ago, the Haitian government officially ended its search for living people under the rubble; upwards of 130 people have been rescued from underneath the remains of collapsed buildings.