37 Days Under an Avalanche

37 Days Under an Avalanche

March 19, 1775 - On this date 3 survivors finally emerged from an avalanche after 37 days. It's one of the longest cases on record of anyone surviving after being buried alive in the snow.

The massive avalanche in Italy's Stura Valley buried a rural house and its stable under 50 feet of snow. Maria Anna Rocha, her sister-in-law, her 13-year-old daughter and her 6-year-old son were in the stable tending to a pregnant goat when the wall of snow roared down the mountain. The roof collapsed and trapped the 4 people in a crawlspace 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 5 feet high.

Plunged into total darkness and freezing cold, the family was able to survive on the milk of one of the two surviving goats. They also had a handful of walnuts but those didn't last more than a few days.

On the surface, Maria's husband and her older son had also survived the initial disaster, but since the avalanche had swept almost everything away and covered the site with tons of snow and debris, they were unable to locate their trapped family members. They desperately dug countless holes into the thick cover, but they were never able to find any trace of their loved ones. After a week, all hope was lost that anyone would be found alive.

Meanwhile, deep beneath the melting snow, Maria and the others were suffering unimaginable misery. The smell of rotting animals and the constantly dripping water tormented the survivors. 

The little boy died after 12 days, but on April 24th the snow had thawed enough to reveal the top of a shed. Maria's husband had a vivid dream in which he saw his wife alive. He returned to the site before sunrise to continue digging. Amazingly, they heard someone praying and the rescue effort kicked into high gear.

5 weeks after they were buried alive, Maria, her sister-in-law and her daughter were finally lifted from their freezing crypt. Terribly emaciated and barely alive, the sister-in-law had lost the ability to speak. Maria had gone completely bald, but her daughter was in surprisingly good shape.

37 days under an avalanche is an amazing survival story, but there are other instances bordering on miraculous. In 2005 a woman from Kashmir, Pakistan survived for 63 days in a crouched position after her home was destroyed in an earthquake.

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