KATHMANDU, NEPAL — Crowds erupted in cheers Thursday as a teen boy was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed building five days after Nepal's catastrophic earthquake.
The dramatic rescue provided a rare moment of joy as the official death toll from Saturday's disaster rose above 5,500.
A group of international rescue teams — including the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team — had been working for around six hours using an excavator, jacks, saws and shovels to free the teen.
The teen was pulled out of a small hole dusty but conscious, immediately put onto a backboard and moved a few feet away where he was given water and an IV before being placed in an ambulance. Rescuers told NBC News the blinking teen was conscious and "talking."
Bystanders broke out in cheers as they saw the survivor, loaded into the ambulance.
"It's a miracle, a true miracle," an armed police force general at the scene told NBC News. "He came out and he's okay!"
USAID team leader Andrew Olvera told NBC News that the boy had not been crushed, but rather had effectively been trapped in a concrete “box” between floors of a collapsed building. He said structural engineers had assisted in the rescue operation.
“We have buildings that are leaning, so there’s a lot of danger, but when there’s a live victim and a potential to save someone we will risk it all,” Lovera said. “He was not crushed, but being in there for six days with no food, no water, no nutrition was obviously very taxing … so he was very fortunate.”
Olvera described the rescue as “amazing.”
“It’s what we do, it’s what we train for … our firefighters know how to get in there and get to business. When we do this, we have thousands of hours of training for this scenario, and this is the ultimate reward,” he said.