Teenager pulled alive from rubble six days after Nepal earthquake

Posted at 10:06 AM, Apr 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-30 11:00:41-04

Editor’s note: The teen in the above video is actually 15

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) — On Day Six of Nepal’s tragedy, life triumphed as rescuers pulled a 15-year-old from the rubble of a multistory residential building in one of Kathmandu’s hard-hit neighborhoods.

A large crowd erupted in cheers as Pemba Tamang was carried out on a stretcher. He was wearing a New York Yankees shirt and a blue neck brace, was blanketed by dust and had the look of a deer in the headlights.

His rescuer, Inspector Lakshman Basnet of the Nepalese Armed Police Force, said Tamang was responsive and showed no apparent signs of serious injury.

He was given an IV drip and rushed from the Gongapur area to a temporary emergency hospital run by an Israeli aid team.

The Nepalese rescuers had been working for five hours to locate Tamang after they heard his voice coming from under the debris.

‘It’s dangerous, but it’s what we do’

An American disaster response team was at a nearby damaged bus station when it got word that someone might be alive.

Andrew Olvera, the head of the U.S. team, said his men rushed over with search dogs and equipment ranging from breaching tools to sophisticated cameras that can probe under the rubble.

He said the operation carried enormous risk, as chunks of the collapsed building hung precariously on rebar. Entire floors of what used to be people’s homes were visible — ceiling fans and beds still draped with cotton sheets. It was a mountain of loss and sorrow.

“It’s dangerous, but it’s what we do,” said Olvera, who has a daughter and twin 11-year-old boys. “It’s risk versus gain. To save a human life, we will risk almost everything.

“The way the building is, it’s definitely a miracle,” he said.

Man ‘survived by good faith’

Tamang cried for water in a muffled voice. He had been buried for five days under a building that pancaked. He dodged death because of a motorcycle that shielded him from the pressure of the concrete and steel, according to Basnet.

And, Basnet said, he “survived by good faith.”

Dennis Bautista, who went down to where Tamang was buried to administer medical aid, called the rescue amazing.

“It feels good to be able to help out. I can’t imagine what he went through,” Bautista said. “He is a brave young man.”

Basnet said once he got closer to Tamang, he tried to reassure him that he would be OK.

“I gave him water and talked to him regularly,” Basnet said.

Rescuers continue search

After Tamang was rushed to the hospital, the US Agency for International Development team continued the search. The possibility remained that someone else might have survived, like Tamang.

Other search and rescue teams continued to scour through Kathmandu’s rubble Thursday. They are looking for survivors from the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck Saturday, killing 5,582 people and wounding more than 11,000, according to Nepali authorities. Another 72 people were reported dead in India and 25 in China.

In Nepal, 19 of the deaths occurred on Mount Everest, where the quake triggered deadly avalanches. Despite the disaster, Nepali authorities plans to reopen routes up the mountain as soon as next week.

Teams are clearing paths and and rebuilding ladders, Tourism Ministry spokesman Krishna Sapkota told CNN on Thursday. Officials are encouraging people who have already received permission to climb this season to go ahead with their plans.

As the chances dimmed for finding people alive in the wreckage left by the quake across Nepal, Tamang’s rescue boosted hopes for all those who still have loved ones and friends missing.

Other people have been saved from under collapsed buildings in previous days, including a 27-year-old man on Tuesday and a 4-month-old boy on Sunday. The Nepali military also released a photo of a dust-caked 11-year-old girl who they said was rescued Wednesday after 90 hours under the rubble.

The rescuers, meanwhile, have no intention of giving up looking for more.

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Olvera said, revised the benchmark for what was thought possible for survival. A man there was miraculously pulled from the rubble after 27 long days.