'Luck saved him, it's like he has a second life'

KATHMANDU - As he lay trapped for some 82 hours under the rubble of his Kathmandu hotel after last Saturday's earthquake, 28-year-old Rishi Khanal knew what he must do to survive: drink his own urine.

After a painstaking rescue effort, Nepalese and French emergency workers finally pulled him alive early yesterday from the wreckage, from where he had been desperately calling relatives on his phone for days.

Dazed and caked in dirt, Mr Khanal was carried out of the wreckage on a stretcher before being taken to hospital, where doctors said he was lucky to be alive, suffering only a leg injury.

Brother-in-law Purna Ram Bhattarai, 32, described how Mr Khanal was left helpless when his leg was pinned under debris.

"He said the walls just started crumbling and there was nothing he could do. His leg was stuck and he was trapped," Mr Bhattarai said yesterday.

"He said he was so thirsty that he even drank his own urine, there was nothing else, no option," Mr Bhattarai said as he waited at Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital for Mr Khanal to return from surgery on his leg.

From beneath the rubble, Mr Khanal had called Mr Bhattarai to plead for help. But Mr Khanal, who has a wife and a six-month- old baby and lives in Arghakhanchi district, forgot the name of the hotel where he had been staying since last Thursday.

"You won't believe it but we could reach him on his phone even after two days," Mr Bhattarai said. "I'm trapped here, he said, but in panic he forgot the hotel's name. If he had remembered, maybe we would have found him earlier."

Mr Bhattarai said the phone later went dead, sparking a desperate search of overwhelmed hospitals and mortuaries in the capital.

"Luck saved him, it's like he has a second life. Everybody else is dead," said Mr Bhattarai.

"He was conscious when he was rescued... he said 'Oh God, thank you'. His wife was very relieved when we called her."

Like thousands of other young men who leave impoverished Nepal for work in the Gulf, Mr Khanal was due to fly to Dubai on Sunday to work at a KFC outlet.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE