Centenarian survives Nepal quake, worries he's testing fate

Centenarian's Rescue From Nepal Rubble Is Welcome News
Centenarian's Rescue From Nepal Rubble Is Welcome News

BIDUR, Nepal (AP) - It was an unlikely escape. By his own account, he should have died. But when the humble hut of stacked grey stones collapsed onto Funchu Tamang, who believes himself to be 101 years old, his daughter-in-law quickly pulled him from the wreckage.

He was hit in the chest by a rock during the quake. A couple of ribs were broken, giving him trouble breathing. The next day, just when his son arrived from Nepal's northwest, Tamang was weak and delirious. "I thought my father was dead," 58-year-old Bal Bahadur Tamang said Monday. But the old man had only fallen unconscious.

They revived him, but a few days later it became clear he needed more medical help. His wheezing was getting worse. He was tired and often dizzy.

They called the Nuwakot district hospital for help, which sent a police helicopter to land near his village and bring him here on Saturday.

On Monday, doctors monitored Tamang's vital signs at the makeshift clinic set up in the parking lot of the district's medical office in the partially ruined town of Bidur.

Funchu Tamang's ordeal is yet another of the extraordinary stories of resilience and survival coming out of Nepal after it was rocked by a 7.8-magnitude quake on April 25. It killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands more homeless.

When he arrived, doctors treated Tamang for a partially collapsed lung. They bandaged cuts he received in the chaos after the quake. Two days later, he was alert and sitting upright, chatting. His blood pressure was a cool 101/62. His injuries were mostly healed, to the point where doctors said he could go home Tuesday.

Funchu Tamang is so old, he has lived through two such devastating quakes. But he barely remembers the 1934 temblor that hit with a magnitude of 8 and leveled cities.

The more recent scare, however, is fresh in his mind. "This one was really bad. I was afraid. I felt as if I would die," he said from his parking lot hospital bed.

He's still confused by the ordeal, and wonders if he may be testing fate a bit too far. "I'm very lucky to be alive. ... But I am so old. I don't think I can survive anymore. I can't see properly. I can't work, can't move properly," he said, wearing a T-shirt depicting the king and queen of Bhutan, a hand-out from visiting Bhutanese medics.

"I am an old man. It is my time to die."