Quake victims have survived for two weeks under rubble

New Delhi, May 4: Many people have survived beyond two days of entrapment under rubble after an earthquake, with a few successfully enduring entrapment for 13-14 days, says an international study.

A study of earthquakes that occurred between 1985 and 2004 showed the longest reliably reported survival as 14 days after impact.

Nepal earthquake victims

The next closest was survival for 13 days, says the study "Surviving collapsed structure entrapment after earthquakes: A 'time-to-rescue' analysis".

The findings came to light from the study of 34 earthquakes across the globe.

It will be a ray of hope for those who are desperately awaiting retrieving their loved ones from the rubble over a week after the 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal, as the toll rose to over 7,000.

Forty-eight medical articles containing time-to-rescue data were identified.

Of these, the longest time to rescue was '13-19 days' post-event (second-hand data and the author is not specific), says the study led by A.G. Macintyre of the department of emergency medicine at The George Washington University in Pennsylvania, US.

The second longest time to rescue was 8.7 days (209 hours). Twenty-five medical articles reported multiple rescues that occurred after two days (48 hours).

Media reports have spoken about rescues occurring beyond day two in 18 of 34 earthquakes.

Of these, says the study, the longest reliably reported survival was 14 days after impact, with the next closest having survived 13 days.

The average maximum time reported from the 18 quakes was 6.8 days.

The event with the most media reports of distinct rescue events was the 1999 Marmara earthquake in Turkey (43 victims). Times range from 0.5 days (12 hours) to 6.2 days (146 hours) for this event.

However, the databases provide little formal data to develop detailed insight into factors affecting survivability during entrapment, say the researchers.

Massive earthquakes often cause structures to collapse, trapping victims under dense rubble for long periods of time. Commonly, this spurs resource-intensive, dangerous and frustrating attempts to find and extricate live victims.

The search and rescue phase usually is maintained for many days beyond the last "save", potentially diverting critical attention and resources away from the pressing needs of non-trapped survivors and the devastated community.

The study says this recurring phenomenon is driven by the often-unanswered question: Can anyone still be alive there?

The maximum survival time in entrapment is an important issue for responders, yet little formal research has been conducted on this issue.

The Nepalese authorities on Saturday ruled out finding more survivors under the rubble.

"It will be a miracle if anyone is found alive," Nepal home ministry spokesman Laxmi Dhakal was quoting as saying. "But we have not completely given up yet and are continuing to look."

European Union envoy to Nepal Rensje Teerink said on May 1 that the whereabouts of its 1,000 citizens were still unknown.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said a $415 million emergency appeal, which was jump-started with $15 million made available through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), will help partners provide emergency shelter to 500,000 people who remain in the open, braving the damp and cold weather in Nepal.

Emergency health services and medical supplies and facilities, and safe drinking water and sanitation facilities are also urgently needed for up to 4.2 million people.

As many as 1.4 million people will benefit from food assistance, including 750,000 in hard-to-reach areas. Some 2.1 million children and 525,000 women will benefit from protection assistance, it added.


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