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UPDATED: May 16, 2008 Web Exclusive
Out of the Darkness
A lucky survivor was finally pulled out of the rubble after being buried for more than 70 hours

At 5.35 p.m. on May 15, 2008, some 30 rescue workers and bystanders in a collapsed residential building in Jinjiang District of Chengdu burst into applause as a lucky survivor was finally pulled out of the rubble.

Rescue workers attempt to use ropes to pull out the survivor. (Photo by DUAN WEI)

Shen Guizhen, 35, lived on the ground floor of the 6-storey building, which was totally ruined in Monday's quake. Buildings around the site were damaged as well, but not as severely as Shen's.

"We managed to save a 20-something survivors the day before, which strengthened our belief that we could save more lives," a rescue worker said. "We searched carefully and shouted out to every spot where survivors might be buried."

Shen was found in this way. At 11.40 a.m., fast approaching their deadline of 72 hours, the rescue team heard Shen's voice from the debris. The skilled firefighters began rescue operations without a second thought.

One by one, a couple of rescuers squeezed into a hole measuring 150 cm in width and 50 cm in height, to reach Shen; they employed machines to widen the space for her. They tried to pull her out but in vain, for her left leg had been crushed under the cement floor and was completely mangled.

The situation gradually worsened as the temperature rose and there was the likelihood of the surrounding buildings collapsing from aftershocks. Moreover, Shen was precariously close to unconsciousness, after being buried for more than 70 hours without food or water.

Drinking water and oxygen reached Shen. Rescuers tried their best to comfort her. At the same time, a hard decision -- amputation of her leg -- was made by medical staffs, because it was the only way to save her life.

Shen Guizhen, 35, is extricated after being buried for 75 hours. (Photo by DUAN WEI)

Fortunately, it paid off. Shen was reunited with her family and soon transferred to the hospital by ambulance.

"We'll treasure it as a memory," said Yang Liang, Shen's cousin, who recorded the rescue on digital video. "We'll always remember those who helped us."


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