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Six Days Without Sunlight: Woman Survives in Bank’s Rubble

January 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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The arrival of fresh aid was a welcome sight in Haiti on Monday, but aid workers struggled to get food, water, and medical supplies to survivors of last week's earthquake. Bill Neely of Independent Television News reports on one woman's unlikely survival story.

JEFFREY BROWN: More troops and more aid reached Haiti today, but many remained desperate, as distribution problems and fears of violence continued.

We begin our coverage with two on-the-ground reports from Independent Television News, first, Bill Neely on the race to save lives.

BILL NEELY: In the ruins of Haiti, the signs aren’t good. It’s day six. The diggers tear at the rubble, making survival beneath unlikely. The scavengers at the banks search for money, not the living. One man looks on.

Roger still believes his wife, a bank worker, just might be alive. He rushes in every time ground is cleared. This time, someone hears a noise. He calls for silence, then for his wife, Janette.

MAN: OK, she’s there! She’s alive!

BILL NEELY: “OK, she’s there, she’s alive,” he says. They scrape away stones to expose a small hole and allow the first light to reach the woman in six days, her husband overwhelmed.

I can hear Janette talking. I put a microphone in and ask her if she’s injured.

“Yes,” she says. “My fingers are broken.”

She tells me she needs water. “It would be a great pleasure. I’m thirsty, and I can’t see,” she says.

Then, a message for her husband: “Even if I die, I love you so much. Don’t forget it.”

The risk of her dying remains. Not her husband, nor anyone here has the equipment to get her out.

MAN: Would you like to take a look?

BILL NEELY: Suddenly, help arrives, firefighters from Los Angeles.

MAN: Her hair right there.

MAN: Yes.

BILL NEELY: They push a tiny camera into the hole, and Janette is revealed. Her head is moving.

MAN: All right. We’re going to get you something to drink first.

BILL NEELY: They get her water and then begin cutting in to the cables and beams around her, then our first clear sight of her, dust in her eyes, smiling, wincing, but alive.

MAN: OK. All quiet.

MAN: It’s amazing. She’s in incredible shape for the time period she’s been in there.

BILL NEELY: There is just one major worry now, an aftershock.

MAN: We may not have a whole lot of time. Once it goes, it goes.

BILL NEELY: On a camera, they have seen Janette’s hand pinned under a beam. Free it, and she’s free. A rescuer reaches her hand. She is in pain.

MAN: Hang in there, Janette.

MAN: All right, Janette, we’re almost there.

BILL NEELY: But, within three hours of first hearing her voice, she emerges.

MAN: One, two, three.

BILL NEELY: Her first words, “Thank you, God,” and then an astonishing moment. The words of her song, “Don’t be afraid of death.”

She told me she always thought she would survive, but she wondered why this had happened to her.

Did you think you would live, Janette? Did you think you would live?



WOMAN: Live. Why not?

MAN: All right, nice and easy.

MAN: Hi, Janette.

BILL NEELY: Janette Samfour is alive. And, for her husband, it’s a miracle.

But her survival is the exception in a city of death. She drove away as if nothing had happened to see for herself the horror that had been hidden from her.