The enormous tremor jolted the mountains of eastern Pakistan on the morning of Oct. 8. The magnitude 7.6 quake left nearly 2.5 million people homeless and killed at least 35,000. But in the horror were also miraculous tales of survival. Clare Langshaw, 32, a paramedic from Gloucester, England, was part of a rapid-response disaster team that—using specialized listening devices—helped rescue a mother, who is apparently the wife of a United Nations staffer, and her son, who is about 2, from the rubble of the Margalla Tower apartment block in Islamabad 63 hours after the disaster.
We started off with heavy machinery, carefully pulling layers of debris back so we could tunnel into the building. At first all we heard was tapping. The mother was tapping, but we couldn’t pin down the exact location. We just knew it was coming from deep inside the building.
The first tunnel unfortunately came out on the wrong side of a wall, so we had to dig a second tunnel. We went through a period when she wasn’t tapping at all, and we had no contact. That was for about six hours, and then we picked it up again. It was a great relief to hear her. We were very worried that she was unconscious.
I was up against the wall, and I could talk to them from the first tunnel. He was a lovely little boy. They both spoke very good English, and the boy kept talking about Thomas the Tank Engine and teddy bears. His mom was very calm, very collected. They were both very brave. I’m not absolutely sure how big the space they were trapped in was, but it was probably about a meter square (about one yard).
When my colleagues got the second tunnel through, the little boy just crawled towards the light. It was amazing. He was pulled out of the tunnel and handed to me. I asked him how he was. It was great—he just smiled at me. His mom had back pain because of the position she was in. The little boy didn’t have any injuries. He was dehydrated, which is what we would have expected.
When we got the little boy, I gave him a teddy bear, and when he got to the hospital a doctor tried to take it away from him and he got really upset. That boy has gone through a lot in his little lifetime.