Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Man pulled out alive 11 days after earthquake

AP and afp, PORT-AU-PRINCE

Wismond Exantus is rescued on Saturday after being trapped under rubble for 11 days in Port-au-Prince.

PHOTO: EPA

A man buried for 11 days in the wreckage of Haiti’s devastating earthquake was pulled from the rubble, as officials said they were shifting their focus from rescue to caring for the thousands of survivors living in makeshift camps.

Rescuers reached Wismond Exantus by digging a tunnel into a destroyed fruit and vegetable shop, French officials said, on the same day the UN announced that the Haitian government had declared an end to searches for living people trapped under debris.

Exantus, who is in his 20s, was placed on a stretcher and given intravenous fluids as onlookers cheered. He later said he survived by diving under a desk during the quake and later consuming some cola, beer and cookies in the cramped space.

“I was hungry, but every night I thought about the revelation that I would survive,” Exantus said from his hospital bed.

Exantus’ brother said he had been unable to approach the shop, in a dangerous area plagued by looters, because of the police. His family eventually alerted a Greek rescue team to his cries deep under the remains of the shop.

Meanwhile, on Saturday hundreds gathered for the funeral of the archbishop of Haiti’s stricken capital, a rare formal ceremony in a shattered nation where mass graves hold many of the dead.

Only a small number of funerals have been held since the quake struck, with most people buried anonymously and without ceremony in mass graves on the outskirts of the city.

An estimated 200,000 people died, according to Haitian government figures cited by the European Commission. The UN said on Saturday the government had preliminarily confirmed 111,481 bodies, but that figure does not account for corpses buried by relatives.

While the two-hour ceremony was held for Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot and vicar Charles Benoit, who also perished in the Jan. 12 earthquake, people in the crowd of about 2,000 wept for deeply personal losses.

“We feel like we have lost everything. Our child, our country, our friend,” said Junior Sant Juste, a 30-year-old father whose three-year-old daughter died when his home collapsed.

Experts said it was unlikely that there were many more survivors and the chance of saving trapped people begins diminishing after 72 hours.

Authorities have stopped short of explicitly directing all teams to halt rescue efforts, and searchers continued picking through the ruins. But UN relief workers said the shift in focus is critical: While deliveries of food, medicine and water have ticked up after initial logjams, the need continues to be overwhelming and doctors fear outbreaks of disease in the camps.

“It doesn’t mean the government will order them to stop. In case there is the slightest sign of life, they will act,” UN spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said. She added that, “except for miracles, hope is unfortunately fading.”

All told, some 132 people have been pulled alive from beneath collapsed buildings by international search and rescue teams, she said.

Also on Saturday, organizers for the all-star “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon in the US said the event raised US$57 million — and counting.

The two-hour telethon aired Friday night and was also streamed live online. Stars including Brad Pitt, Beyonce, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen used their presence to encourage donations for Haiti.

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