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21 May 2024

Man survives 11 days in Haiti rubble

A 25-year-old Haitian man rescued on Saturday after spending 11 days buried in the ruins of a grocer's shop survived on snacks and Coca-Cola, he told AFP in a hospital interview.

"I feel good," said 25-year-old Wismond Exantus, after he became the latest Haitian victim of last week's earthquake to be pulled from the rubble by international search and rescue teams.

"I survived by drinking Coca-Cola. I drank Coca-Cola every day, and I ate some little tiny things," he explained in Creole, after having spent a week and a half stuck in his place of work, the "Napolitain" grocery.

"I felt the tremor and then I lost consciousness, and when I woke up I called out 'Gerald! Gerald!'," he said, referring to a co-worker.

He found himself caught in a small pocket in the rubble, able to move slightly to the left and right -- and to bang on objects to try to attract the attention of passers-by -- but unable to free himself.

"I didn't shout, I just prayed," he said at a French field hospital in Port-au-Prince after French, American and Greek search and rescue teams removed him from the debris on a stretcher.

His body is thin but not emaciated, his voice weak but not faltering as he insists there are six more people alive in the building that was his temporary tomb, although rescue workers said they could detect no other signs of life.

Medics say he is in remarkably good shape given his ordeal, and the survivor thanks God for his rescue as doctors encourage him to sleep.

Exantus' brother Jean-Pierre Jeanelie told AFP that he had feared for him, but had been unable to approach the ruined shop -- which lies in an unruly neighborhood plagued by looters -- because of the police.

"I helped other people after the quake. I helped get them out of the rubble, but I couldn't get to the shop because the police blocked people from going there," he complained.

"I was losing hope, but not completely, then last night I had a dream about my brother and when people told me there was noise coming from the shop I couldn't believe it."

Jeanelie says he lost five family members in the quake that killed over 112,000 others. Their family home was destroyed, leaving them to join hundreds of thousands of others sleeping on the street.

"We lost everything, all our money, but people help and give us things," he said.

Earlier, French firefighters who had eventually pulled Exantus from the rubble confirmed that they had not been able to give his neighborhood the attention they wanted because of the security situation.


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