Image: Collapsed building in Haiti

TODAY   |  January 12, 2010

Survivor recounts Haitian quake’s wrath

Jan. 13: American Frank Thorp Jr. tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer how his wife was pulled from rubble in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital devastated by an earthquake.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> tell us, american missionary jillian thorpe was pulled safely from the rubble of a collapsed building in port-au-prince. her husband, frank thorpe jr., who happened to be an intern with us here on "today," helped with that rescue and also is with us by phone. frank, good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt.

>> just talk to me about this. i know you were several hours away from port-au-prince when the quake struck. you knew that jillian was in the capital city , perhaps in difficulty. describe your trip into the city and what you saw along the way.

>> well, you know, we were walking around about 100 miles north of port-au-prince, and we felt the earthquake, but it was just a smaller quake up there. we actually thought it was funny, but the fact was that we had no cell phone reception there, so we had no idea what was going on. but we heard a rumor that it had hit port-au-prince really hard, so we came here as soon as we could. and we got here and jillian was -- my wife and also one other person were trapped.

>> was it chaos in the streets in port-au-prince surrounding that building?

>> absolutely. it's worse than a war zone . just thousands and thousands of haitians on the streets because their buildings and their houses have collapsed and they can't live in them. we have been woken up throughout the night by women who are screaming because they found their husbands in the rubble. there are -- every other building has collapsed. it's just a horrible scene, matt.

>> so, frank, when you got to the building where jillian was, this building you described as having collapsed, can you tell me how you got to her, how you found her?

>> well, we were really lucky because there's a staff that always works here, a haitian staff, and they had already started to -- they dug a hole through the concrete ceiling of this house where they were caught, and we went in, and i pulled her out, and it took us -- it took them hours and hours. she was in there for ten hours, and it took them hours to get her out, and it was just, it was such a relief to get her out. it was an extremely emotional time.

>> talk to me about her condition. what are her injuries and what about other people living in that area, what kind of injuries have they sustained?

>> well, jillian is doing okay. she has some major bruises and she's having a hard time walking. there was another person trapped with her who we think broke his leg, and there was another staff member here who we think actually -- she actually lost both of her legs. but, i mean, there are dead people , there are people dying on the streets, there are injured on the streets. there are so many people here that need help, and it's absolutely horrible.

>> well, frank, again, we're happy that jillian is all right, but your description of the scene there in port-au-prince is chilling, and i know that a lot of people in this country will be eager to find some way to help. we thank you for your time this morning.

>> thank you so much, matt.

>> all right, frank thorp jr. the earthquake reached far into