2 Survive 11 Days in Debris of Philippines Earthquake

From Times Wire Services

Rescuers who heard faint but anguished cries of “Help us!” pulled two survivors from the twisted wreckage of a luxury hotel on Friday, 11 days after it collapsed in an earthquake that devastated this once-picturesque mountain resort.

The pair, a man and a woman, survived amid the plaster, mangled steel and wood beams and sandwiched concrete slabs of the 12-story Hyatt Terraces Hotel, one of 28 buildings in Baguio flattened by the 7.7 temblor that rocked the Philippines on July 16.

Rescuers and spectators cheered and wept as the two emerged from the rubble on stretchers. Rescuers said the pair were found in what was the third floor of the hotel.


“Mother, father, I am safe!” cried Arnel Calabia, 27, a hotel security guard, in a radio interview from Baguio General Hospital, where he and Luisa Mallorca, 21, a casino employee, were later taken.

Calabia told reporters that he ducked under a table when the earthquake struck. He said he survived by drinking rainwater, which seeped into the rubble.

“In the first four days I felt neither hunger nor thirst, but in the last few days . . . I survived on rainwater,” he said.

Government spokesman Horacio Paredes said Calabia and Mallorca told hospital authorities that they never lost hope in the 11 days they were trapped.

“They said they also survived by drinking their urine,” Paredes added. “The workers found a cup near them which they apparently used.”

Doctors said Calabia and Mallorca were pale, hungry and suffering from severe dehydration as well as cuts and bruises. Both were listed in stable condition.


Officials said miners tunneling through the hotel’s wreckage in an effort to clear away the giant concrete slabs heard Calabia cry out “Help us” and started clawing through the rubble at that spot.

Jacinto Benayan, one of the miners, said that after boring for five hours with jackhammers, they reached the hotel elevator shaft and found Mallorca alive, pinned beneath a beam. Calabia was found nearby.

At least 18 of the 90 employees and guests who were in the Hyatt at the time of the quake are still unaccounted for, officials said. British, American and Japanese rescue teams had abandoned their search efforts last week, convinced no survivors would be found.

But local miners and other volunteers had vowed to keep looking until all the missing were accounted for. The quake killed 1,653 people, left 1,037 missing and presumed dead, and more than 3,000 injured. Baguio, a mountain resort about 120 miles north of Manila, was one of the hardest-hit areas with at least 400 killed.

Calabia told radio station DZMM that he, Mallorca and another male employee were on the third floor of the hotel when the quake struck.

He said Mallorca yelled, “We should jump out. Somebody said ‘No, don’t jump. Let’s stay here.’ ”


All three dived under tables “and then the ceiling fell in,” he said. “We recovered consciousness later and we called out to each other.”

The three lay in the dark, talked to each other and prayed, according to both survivors. The male companion suffered serious injuries and died about four days ago.

Mallorca said the man complained of thirst in his final days and became delirious. “He said: ‘I’m very, very thirsty. I want a cold Coke. Go to my wife and ask for money and buy us a Coke,’ ” she recalled. “The following day he was still asking for a Coke. I told him, ‘Don’t think about it, just pray.’ ”

The man finally fell silent.

“I convinced myself he was not yet dead,” Calabia said. “I told him I would cover his face because rain was dripping down.”

“I was OK where I was, but I realized just a while ago that there was a concrete slab above my forehead,” he said. “Just a few more inches and I would have been dead too.”

Both he and Mallorca are employees of the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., which operated a casino in the hotel.


Last October, a California longshoreman was pulled from beneath tons of wreckage of an Oakland freeway that had collapsed four days earlier in an earthquake. Buck Helm had suffered injuries to virtually every organ in his body when his compact car was crushed under Interstate 880. He died 28 days after his rescue, which came after workers had given up hope of finding more survivors.

In the Mexico City earthquake in September, 1985, a number of survivors were pulled from the rubble. The most celebrated were the so-called miracle babies found in the wreckage of two maternity hospitals. The newborns survived periods of entombment ranging from eight hours to almost nine days.

In Baguio, workers continue to comb the hotel’s rubble for other possible survivors. At least two more bodies--both male--were pulled from the debris on Friday.

Rescue attempts were slowed earlier by a fire that was touched off Thursday night by acetylene torches used to cut through the steel and concrete.

The Hyatt was one of eight hotels that collapsed during the earthquake, the strongest to hit the Philippines in 14 years.