Woman Rescued After 5 Days in Rubble
For five days, 21-year-old Maria-France Alphonse lie pinned and contorted in the mountainous mass of stone slabs.
Her weak cries reached the ears of passers-by, who alerted authorities with USAID to her plight.
At 10:30 Sunday night (after 11 hours of labor by firefighters from California, Virginia, France and elsewhere) she was pulled alive from the rubble that was once her home.
It was a rare glimmer of joy in a city that has been enveloped in despair since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake thundered through the nation's capital Tuesday.
"For someone to be alive that long, it's truly amazing," said Dennis Cross, a Los Angeles County Fire Task Force member with USAID.
Cross said his team has been in the city since Wednesday, taking direction from the United Nations on credible leads where people are entombed alive in the crush of concrete.
Alphonse was buried six feet beneath the ground of what was once her two-story home.
Great care had to be taken as she was removed, because her arm was pinned under piles of debris. Toxins built up in limbs cut off from normal circulation can be instantly fatal if not properly treated before the pressure is removed, Cross said.
Crews used a long, thin microphone to communicate with Alphonse as they worked quickly and carefully to remove her. She was given anesthesia, and her arm had to be amputated before she could be removed.
Large crowds gathered for hours while the crews worked, hoping to catch a glimpse of a miracle.
Cheers erupted from the firefighters and also the homeless Haitians who stood behind caution tape nearby.
"They have been working all day," said onlooker Sergo Bersi, 42. "We really appreciate this help because the people of Haiti are in such great need."
Richard Yuras of the Virginia Task Force of firefighters said they have been working since Wednesday, and his group alone has rescued 10 people.
"It's exhilarating (when you can pull someone out alive)," Yuras said.
He and his crews will continue their rescue missions in the coming days.
"We're going to keep on because people have been known to survive in situations like this for eight, nine, 10 days," Yuras said. "If there's a chance, we're going to take it."