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10 great escapes

Oct. 12, 2010, 4:39 p.m.
Wismond Exantus, Haiti earthquake survivor

Photo: ZUMA Press

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Haiti earthquake survivor

After Haiti was shaken by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010 — killing an estimated 230,000 people — optimism was scarce in the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince. The only bits of good news came as survivors were pulled from the rubble, but without enough machinery to excavate all the fallen buildings, hope was fading quickly.

But 11 days after the quake, just as officials declared an end to searches, a faint tapping noise was heard under the ruins of a hotel. Rescuers traced it to Wismond Exantus, a 24-year-old cashier who had crawled under a desk as the hotel was falling, and lived for 11 days on chips, candy, sodas and beer — plus an entire bottle of white-label whiskey. A Greek and French rescue crew cleared an opening to access him, but when none of the male rescuers could fit through, they sent in a 5-foot-5 Scottish volunteer named Carmen Michalska, who finally helped Exantus squirm free. In a field hospital afterward, Exantus told the Associated Press that optimism and faith kept him alive: "Every night I thought about the revelation that I would survive," he said.