January 21, 2010 // Uncategorized

Woman rescued from cathedral rubble seven days after Haitian quake

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Caritas search and rescue teams Jan. 19 miraculously found and pulled five people from the rubble of the badly damaged Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, where they had been clinging to life for seven days.

The first to be rescued, Enu Zizi, was pulled out by expert teams from Mexico and South Africa who worked for two hours to extract her. Caritas officials said she suffered injuries to her hips and possibly a broken leg, but “was not critically injured.”

Zizi told her rescuers, “I love you,” upon being pulled from the rubble.

Alejandro de Hoyos of Caritas Quintana Roo — the Mexican team’s sponsor — described the rescue to Catholic News Service by telephone from the team’s home base in Cancun.

“It was like witnessing a small miracle,” said Caritas translator Ruth Schoffl of Austria. “After a week of searching we heard this voice. I was able to speak to her, translating for the rescue team.”

South African relief team leader, Ahmed Ham, called the rescue, “The best thing in the team we have experienced.

“It is the first time we have saved somebody’s life after such a long time after the quake. The team has got an energy boost new and we are heading out to do more work as there is still hope,” he said.

Msgr. Charles Benoit, vicar general of the archdiocese, was not among those found alive. His body was found “with his hands around a reliquary with a wafer inside,” Caritas said in a statement.

The miracle of finding Zizi alive marked one of the few bright spots since a magnitude 7 earthquake flattened much of Port-au-Prince Jan. 12. Relief efforts have been hampered by damaged infrastructure, security problems and shortages of critical supplies as well as a Jan. 20 magnitude 6.1 aftershock that media reports say created even more panic in the Haitian capital.

A team of Mexican rescue workers known as “Gophers” was scheduled to returned to Cancun Jan. 20.

De Hoyos said the original team in Haiti was comprised of civil protection workers and firefighters from Cancun and was being replaced by a new team of Gophers — a Mexican term for the workers that formed rescue brigades after the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake.

The rescuers have become famous for digging through rubble to save people trapped in collapsed buildings after disasters.

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