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Man Rescued From Rubble Says He Tried to Kill Himself

July 31, 1990

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A man rescued Monday 14 days after an earthquake buried him in the basement of a luxury hotel said that while trapped in the darkness he often wished he were dead and even tried to kill himself.

Pedrito Dy, a cook and part-time fitness instructor, was the third survivor pulled since Friday from the ruins of the Hyatt Hotel in the northern resort of Baguio. He is one of the longest survivors of an earthquake on record.

Dy, 27, was flown to Manila for medical treatment. One doctor, Raul Morena, said Dy’s athletic build protected him from serious injury in the July 16 quake that killed about 1,600 people. Doctors said he suffered only from dehydration and low blood sugar, which caused disorientation.

Dy spent a peaceful night at Manila’s Makati Medical Center, where he was being fed dextrose and a soft diet, doctors said Tuesday. They said Dy’s blood sugar levels had returned to normal.

Speaking from his hospital bed on Monday, Dy said that while trapped he lay on his back beneath a cushion, which protected him from the debris that shifted repeatedly in aftershocks.

He said he survived by drinking urine and rainwater.

″I drank my urine, sometimes drops of rainwater,″ Dy said. ″I caught water with my mouth and scooped urine with the palm of my hand. For 13 days, I was telling myself I would die.″

Dy’s voice was barely audible. His eyes were glazed and his conversation rambled from recollection to recollection without concern for the subject or sequence of time.

Dy said he finished his shift as a cook at the 350-room hotel and headed for the basement gymnasium to lead about a dozen employees in an afternoon workout.

Suddenly, the building shook and the force of the temblor hurled him against an exercise cushion hanging on a wall. The wall collapsed. But the cushion shielded him from serious injury.

While trapped, Dy said he was aware of the passage of time because a clock that had hung on the gym wall continued operating. It struck every noon and midnight.

″On the 13th day I told myself I wish I were dead,″ he said. ″I attempted to kill myself two times. I banged my head on the wall. ... I prayed constantly to the Virgin Mary and gave my life up to the Lord. Then I wasn’t scared anymore.″

On Sunday, Dy heard noises. It was the tapping of Filipino miners tunneling through the debris, searching for survivors. He called out for help.

Alex Fongafong, a miner for PHILEX Mining Corp., heard the cries. Wedging himself through a narrow tunnel, the miner found a small triangular opening. Peering inside, he saw Dy lying on his back.

″We’ll come back for you and we will bring you out,″ Fongafong shouted. He returned later with mining engineer, Hector Castillo, who used a jackhammer to cut through a beam blocking Dy’s escape.

After a couple of hours, Castillo said rescuers bored a 1 1/2 -foot hole and pulled Dy into the passageway to freedom.

Outside, hundreds of rescuers and spectators cheered as Dy and the others emerged early Monday.

″I am calling for my wife and parents: I’m alive, I’m alive,″ Dy told a radio reporter in Ilocano, the dialect of northern Luzon island. ″I’m OK.″

Later, in Manila, Dy told reporters he made a ″secret vow″ to the Virgin Mary during his days in darkness, although he did not reveal what it was.

Dy said he was among 12 people trapped in the basement of the hotel wing used to house employees. But all the others had died.

The July 16 earthquake measured 7.7 on the Richter scale. Besides the 1,653 people killed, 1,000 are missing and presumed dead, 3,000 were seriously injured and 110,000 were homeless.

Foreign rescue teams in Baguio abandoned the search for more survivors more than a week ago because they said sensor instruments indicated no more people were alive in the ruins of eight hotels. Baguio is 130 miles north of Manila.

But Filipino crews, many of them volunteers, continued the search. There was renewed optimism after two survivors, both hotel employees, were pulled from the rubble, where they had been trapped for 11 days.

The two - Luisa Mallorca, 20, a cleaning woman and Arnel Calabia, 26, a guard - were reported in good condition and were flown Sunday from Baguio to Manila for medical treatment.

More than 50 people, including 12 Americans of Filipino origin, are still believed buried beneath the Hyatt.

There have been other miraculous cases of earthquake survival in modern times, but Dy appears to be one of the longest survivors on record, based on a review of Associated Press reports on other major recent quakes.

When a powerful earthquake struck San Francisco on Oct. 21, 1989, rescuers pulled an Oakland longshoreman, Buck Helm, from his car 89 hours afterward. He died 28 days after his rescue.

The most celebrated survivors of a Mexico City earthquake in September 1985 were the ″miracle babies″ found in the rubble of two maternity hospitals. The newborns survived periods of entombment ranging from eight hours to almost nine days.

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