Shielded by a fallen wooden door, she survived for about 36 hours in complete darkness at the bottom of the five-storey building in Namuna Tol of Gongabu.
She had a slim hope of ever coming out alive until she heard the sounds of excavators and noise of rescues streaming through the rubble.
Fort-three-year-old Tanka Maya Sitaula of Purana Gaun-9 of Sankranti VDC of Tehrathum District, was trapped in the ruins of her meat shop located on the ground floor of the building that had collapsed on Saturday. It is a miracle that she survived at a time when hopes of finding trapped survivors under debris began to fade following the deadliest earthquake to hit the country in decades.
Of the 14 people trapped under the debris of the building, Sitaula was the only survivor. She had been living in the house since the last four months with her two sons and her spouse Mahendra.
“Before I was discovered by a joint rescue team led by Indian rescuers, I had already lost all hopes of seeing this world again,” she recalled her ordeal.
She was washing dishes after her husband and sons had left the home after eating lunch when the building collapsed. “I had no idea that earthquake had struck even after I got trapped in the debris,” said Tanka Maya. “I could hear my mobile phone ringing but could not move to receive it.”
“I was surrounded by total darkness for more than 28 hours. I repeatedly cried for help but there was no sign of it coming.”
“Before removing the debris, we had to confirm her location first. We told her to knock something close to her body,” Inspector Karan Singh, team leader of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said.
“I spotted a water filter close to my left feet and knocked it as hard as I could so that someone could listen,” said Tankamaya, surrounded by her relatives and well-wishers at the premises of a nearby school where all of them were sheltered.
“I have no words to explain when the woman was pulled out with great joy and happiness on her face,” said Singh.
Uncertain about the fate of his wife, Tankamaya’s was equally anxious for 36 hours. “I was terrified for more than 24 hours, but when an international team approached the area, I was filled with hope again,” said her husband Mahendra.
I could neither leave the place where she was buried nor remove the debris with my bare hands. There are six more people whose bodies are yet to be removed from the ruins.
Bina KC of Butwal, who lived on the fourth floor of the same house, avoided the disaster by a sheer stroke of luck. She had left the building in order to treat her son, who returned home with a fractured hand.
“The fractured hand of my son saved me from the disaster,” KC said.