IDF teams comb rubble for last survivors

Team rescues student who was trapped for 6 days; missions in Haiti become body-recovery efforts.

January 19, 2010 05:53
3 minute read.
IDF teams comb rubble for last survivors

Haiti school collapse 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

Inside a demolished home situated on the edge of a valley, a six-man IDF rescue squad worked feverishly on Monday to extricate survivors of last Tuesday's earthquake.

Late on Monday an Israeli team pulled out a student who was trapped for six days under the rubble of the collapsed university building in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

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She was transferred in stable condition to the IDF field hospital.

For hours, as nearby homes smoldered, the team searched for seven people missing from a local apartment building. Outside, the crowd gathered as the Israelis navigated a narrow passage filled with debris.

The search team operated with increasing urgency as time ticked by, saying that tips about the locations of survivors were drying up.

Rescuers located an alley enabling them reach the building where four survivors had previously been pulled from the rubble by neighbors and family, and from which seven people, including two children, were still missing. Among them was seven-year-old Lodz Annouel, an American citizen whose father said she was trapped inside her aunt's house.

"We think she is alive - we hope so," said Ronez Annouel, 37.

Days earlier, he had approached the American Embassy, seeking help.

"They said they were going to send people," he said. "But they haven't come yet."

He organized a local search party for his daughter, paying them $40 an hour. "We have been looking for her every day since it happened," he went on.

Asked if he had given up hope, he said, "No! Never," and added, "Dead or not, I want to see her."

Suddenly rescuers scrambled as a soldier yelled that the search dog had found something.

"Open your ears," said Nir Hazut, chief of the squad.

The rescue dog barked a third time, and seven minutes later, there was a shout: "Come, the device found [signs of] life!"

Rescuers moved rubble and reset their detectors, and minutes later, got a signal for a fourth time.

The team carried rescue tools including hammers, a jack, and blocks to hold the ceiling up as the IDF entered the home. Several hours after the last incident, they found someone in the backyard and were removing the debris to reach them.

"We believe that someone inside is alive," said Amit Even-Paz, a rescuer with the squad.

As of press time, the search was still going strong.

Simon Moses, a local assisting the IDF, affirmed, "The Haitian people believe in miracles."

But even as Haitians wait for official help, information about possible survivors is drying up. The IDF rescue team on Monday stopped people in the street and asked locals to take them to homes where people may be trapped.

"We assume there are still people alive, and we do not want to give up," rescuer Lt.-Col. Golan Wach told The Jerusalem Post.

Every day since Saturday, three IDF rescue squads have searched for survivors. On Saturday, they pulled a 58-year-old man from the wreckage of a demolished home. Sunday, they didn't have such good luck, and found a body pinned under a five-story home that had collapsed like a pancake.

But Wach said the IDF would crisscross Port-au-Prince, creating a "net" to be sure no survivors were left behind.

Still, rescue missions are increasingly turning into body-recovery efforts, and a grim mood had descended on Haiti by Monday.

"They are all dead!" yelled one man as IDF rescuers asked locals for directions to those who might be trapped. Around the city, homeless people bathed and urinated in the streets.

People built bonfires in the middle of the road, and many hand-painted signs posted on the remaining structures cried, "We need help." staff contributed to this report

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