Pemba Lama, 15, Rescued After 5 Days Under Rubble

Five days after the devastating earthquake that killed at least 5,600 in Nepal, a teenage boy was pulled from the rubble in Kathmandu. Onlookers applauded as the boy, identified as 15-year-old Pemba Lama, was extracted from the remains of a guesthouse in Kathmandu’s Gongabu district Thursday. Lama survived for five days in a 20-inch hole beneath two meters of rubble, according to The Guardian, and was transferred to a field hospital for treatment. The moment of hope came as bad weather hampered rescue attempts, prompting officials to predict that the chances of finding more survivors were minimal.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said the death toll from Saturday’s earthquake could reach 10,000. Many of the areas hardest hit by the 7.8 magnitude quake remain difficult to access, and reporting of fatalities is therefore incomplete. By Thursday, the quake toll increased to 5,630; 130,000 homes are reportedly destroyed, while 11,000 people were injured as a result of the geological activity. Lama’s extraordinary survival story joins that of a four-month-old baby rescued Sunday, and a 27-year-old man found Tuesday.

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Inspector Lakshman Basnet of the Nepalese Armed Police Force, who coordinated Lama’s rescue, told CNN the boy had “survived by good faith.” Lama told Yogita Limaye of the BBC that he survived by sucking water from his wet clothes and eating pots of ghee (clarified butter). When he was pulled out, The Guardian reported that he was caked with dirt. Immediately fitted with a neck brace and hooked up to an intravenous drip, he was then lifted on to a stretcher and transported to an Israeli-run field hospital.

Lama was lucky. He was “not too far down,” according to Andrew Olvera, an official from the US Agency for International Development, and rescue teams from Nepal and the US worked tirelessly to free him. Others are not so fortunate. Kumar Khadka, 21, waited anxiously for news of his six-month-old daughter and his wife, who are buried in the rubble from which Lama was pulled. “I have lost my hope that they would be alive,” Khadka told The Guardian's Ishwar Rauniyar. Meanwhile, heavy rain has prevented rescue teams from reaching the worst hit areas of the country. BBC News reported that survivors in rural Nepal have voiced their frustration at the slow pace of aid.

The UN issued a $415 million “Nepal flash appeal” Wednesday to assist with quake relief work. The appeal is designed to help provide shelter, water and sanitation, emergency health, food, and protection for Nepal’s affected residents over the coming three months. “The timing of the intervention remains of the essence,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal Jamie McGoldrick said in a press release. He continued:

Although I am heartened and encouraged by the progress of the response to date, efforts need to be maintained and stepped up to ensure vital assistance reaches all the affected, especially those in the remote areas.
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The scale of the quake’s humanitarian impact is massive, with the UN estimating that 8 million people have been affected, while 2 million will require tents, water, food and medicines in the next few months. Hopes were fading Thursday of discovering anyone else alive. “There may not be any more survivors,” Rameshwor Dandal, chief of the disaster management centre at Nepal’s home ministry, said. “The rain is adding to the problems. Nature seems to be against us.”

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