SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Professional and volunteer rescuers using dogs, modern machinery or just fingers and shovels, searched the earthquake rubble Monday for people who were buried alive.
″It is very dangerous, this is true, but we are experienced and prepared and we want to offer this service,″ said Dr. Antonio Silva Carranza of the Guatemalan rescue team at the five-story Ruben Dario building, which was flattened by Friday’s quake.
Silva Carranza said the length of time a person trapped under rubble can live depends on his injuries, how much oxygen is available and access to water.
The Guatemalan noted that some people were saved after being trapped for a week by the Sept. 19, 1985, quake in Mexico City, where he helped with rescue operations.
John Carroll of Miami said: ″Each case is different. It is impossible to say. There have been cases of people being saved after 30 days.″
He is with the Metro-Dade Country Fire and Rescue, which sent five people to El Salvador.
Mexican Red Cross volunteer Marcos Efren Zavinana Guadarrama grew impatient as rescuers slowly worked from the top at the Ruben Dario building, digging down in hopes of rescuing a trapped woman.
″They are wasting time. You cannot do that. They’re losing time,″ he said.
Zavinana Guadarrama, a slightly built man whose nickname is ″La Pulga″ - The Flea - wanted to crawl through the ruins at ground level, a more dangerous technique.
He became a national hero in Mexico after last year’s quake, repeatedly tunneling into piles of rubble to reach survivors.
Much attention has focused on the specially trained rescue dogs.
A group of 53 men and women from the Swiss Rescue Team, dressed in bright orange jumpsuits and using 20 dogs, spent most of the day checking buildings in the downtown area, including the Ruben Dario.
″The dogs will decide. They are the bosses. Once they get tired, that is when we leave,″ said Swiss team member Jean-Luc Nicollier. He said a dog can work about four days on the average before its sense of smell becomes unreliable.
Dogs are sent directly into the rubble, often crawling through narrow passgeways or openings inside collapsed buildings.
When a dog indicates it has found someone alive, the area is marked with a flag and digging crews move in to attempt a rescue.
″We have had some strong indications that there are people who still may be alive,″ Phil Auduibert of Gordonsville, Va., who is with U.S. dog team, said Sunday outside the Ruben Dario building.
When dogs are not being used, rescue workers crawl through the wreckage listening for breathing, moans or other signs of life.
This requires silence. Throughout the day, workers call out: ″Silencio 3/8 Silencio 3/8″
″Did you ever see 3,000 people be quiet at one time, on a command?″ said Carroll of the Miami rescue team. ″That happens all the time. I mean, it’s marvelous cooperation. ″