Mother survives 36 hours in Nepal quake rubble

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) — Kathmandu is a city with few good stories right now, but Tanka Maya Sitoula has one of them.

The 40-year-old mother-of-four was at home when Saturday’s deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck, bringing the 5-story building down around her ground floor apartment.

In the wake of the disaster, which has left at least 4,500 people dead across Nepal, Sitoula endured 36 long hours trapped in a room on the ground floor, before she was freed by an Indian rescue team.

Remarkably, she escaped without injury, apparently protected by a beam.

Sitoula, who talked to CNN through an interpreter, says she remained confident she would survive throughout her ordeal amid the rubble.

“I heard people making noise outside so I thought I would be rescued,” she said, as she and her family sheltered in the grounds of a nearby school. “I was confident that everybody was there outside and that I would be rescued.”

What did she do for 36 hours? “I was just lying down,” she says. “There was no room to move here and there.”

Sitoula’s husband Mahendra, a butcher, said he called out for help for hours after the quake, as he could hear her shouting in the rubble of the collapsed building.

“I was totally confident that she was there,” he said. “I never stopped calling her. And also from down below she was making sounds and I could hear her.”

It took 18 hours before the necessary help arrived, he said. And it took another 18 hours to free her.

“I was asking people for help. Traffic police, whoever I could find. What happened was there were no tools to cut through the metal debris.”

Eventually, a rescue team from India had the equipment required, he said.

Throughout the ordeal, he never gave up hope, he says: “I was confident that my wife was safe and sound.”

He was only concerned about how she would fare during the attempt to free her.

Inspector Karam Singh from India’s National Disaster Management Authority was supervising search and rescue efforts at the Sitoulas’ former home Tuesday — a bright pink building, pancaked into two levels, with an entire wall sheared off to reveal its purple interior.

He described the rescue efforts as physically draining work — “cutting, pushing and pulling” — but extremely rewarding in the case of Sitoula.

“She was happy, so so happy. She wasn’t stopping praising us,” he said. “We said it’s good to have a [survivor].”

Singh said workers had recovered one body from the building, adding that he believed eight to 10 others remained trapped inside.

But as a French team of sniffer dogs completed a sweep of the ruins with no promising signs, following a search with a sensor earlier which also showed no signs of life, Singh said there was “no chance” of finding any survivors.

As a digger worked to clear the rubble of her former home, Sitoula agreed: two days after her rescue, she says it is highly unlikely there are others as lucky as her, still surviving beneath the rubble.

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