US & World

Rescuers Pull Survivors From Debris Of Haiti Hotel

Elite rescue teams from France, Spain and the United States have extracted seven people out of the flattened Hotel Montana, once one of the nicest hotels in Port-au-Prince. The quake flattened the luxury compound. But as time passes, hope for rescuing other survivors fades.

Overnight and into Friday morning, elite rescue teams from France, Spain and the United States pulled seven people out of the flattened Hotel Montana, which was once one of the nicest hotels in Port-au-Prince.

More than two and a half days after the quake completely destroyed the hotel compound, members of a search-and-rescue team from Fairfax County in Virginia carried American Dan Wooley out of the wreckage of the Montana.

Earlier in the morning, they had plucked Haitian Lucson Mondesir from the massive pile of concrete.

Wooley and Mondesir were trapped side by side in adjacent elevator cars. In the darkness, they talked and encouraged each other until the rescue teams arrived.

When Wooley emerged, Mondesir — in his dust-covered bell hop uniform — was standing outside to greet him. And for the first time, they could see each other.

"It's so good to meet you," Wooley told Mondesir, after the two exchanged greetings.

Wooley and Mondesir were deep in the wreckage at the bottom of two elevator shafts that had flipped on their sides.

Mondesir said the darkness was terrifying and that he had started to hallucinate. He said he and Wooley encouraged each other throughout the ordeal.

Wooley, who had injured his leg, was whisked away to a clinic. But Mondesir walked around, posing for photos with the rescue workers and talking to the press. He said he and Wooley always believed they would be saved.

The rescue crews worked throughout the night to try to reach at least eight people believed to be alive in the remains of the hotel.

Reinhard Riedl is married to Nadine Cardozo-Reidl, co-owner of the Hotel Montana. Riedl said his wife was one of the people trapped in the rubble. He stood in front of a huge, jutting slab of concrete that used to be the hotel roof. And he was waiting.

"My wife is still alive. It was very uncertain this morning. And yesterday, all along, they didn't know where she is, actually. So, right now I feel relieved, and everything else is secondary," Riedl said.

The search-and-rescue crews had to prop up parts of the wreckage to reach the pockets where people were still alive.

Under klieg lights, the team members burrowed in and out of the pile of concrete chunks. Sam Gray, a firefighter from Fairfax County, Va., was one of them.

"It's quite a shock to go in through the dark and actually see somebody's hand poke out all of a sudden, which is normally the first thing you see. That's always a strange sight to see," Gray said.

Gray said they had been working for three days straight, and his team had managed to pull three people out alive. But he said it's hard to savor these victories because there is so much destruction and death around them — even inside the wreckage.

"There'll be bodies right next to the people [who] are alive — right next to, laying on top of — and you'll have one alive, one not alive. And of course, that has a pretty big impact," he said.

All across the Haitian capital, buildings have collapsed — some completely, others partially. An unknown number of people remain trapped or pinned alive in the debris.

Search-and-rescue crews are trying to extract a group of people from inside a supermarket. After the quake, they had made calls from their cell phones for help.

With so many buildings collapsed and so many people missing, it's possible that thousands survived the quake but were trapped somewhere in the debris.

Riedl gave up his vigil for his wife Friday. He had gotten word that despite his initial optimism, she had apparently died in the collapse and her body was still inside the hotel.

He said it might take up to three or four days to get her out, because of all the rubble.

Now, Riedl is worried that his wife might get dumped somewhere in a mass grave. He has joined the thousands and thousands of Haitians in mourning for the loss of their loved ones.

He walks back to the hotel to try to make sure his wife's body is properly taken care of. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit