Trapped in Peru mudslide, mom says thoughts of kids helped her get out

Woman trapped in mudslide
Woman trapped in mudslide

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Story highlights

  • Evangelina Chamorro was swept away in a mudslide
  • She later emerged covered in mud and walked her way out of danger

(CNN)The world now knows Evangelina Chamorro as the woman in the viral video of a Peruvian mudslide, the young mother who dramatically emerged from a river of muck and debris like a ghostly apparition less than a week ago.

Chamorro, 32, left a hospital in the capital of Lima on Wednesday. She was close to tears as she recounted the fast-moving torrent of wet earth and wooden pallets that dragged her from her husband's grasp last Thursday, a wave of misery unleashed after weeks of heavy rains, floods and mudslides that have claimed more than 70 lives.
Chamorro said she was feeding the family's pigs with her husband in Punta Hermosa, a suburb of Lima. A sudden roar caught her attention.
    She said she went outside and discovered a sea of mud. As she was swept away, her husband grabbed her hand. Her other hand clung to a tree branch.
    Her husband urged her to stay calm. Her desperation grew, however, as heavy slabs of wood floated by her body.
    "I told him, I can't take this anymore," she told reporters on Wednesday. "I can't. He told me to be strong."
    The tree branch soon gave way, she said. Mud covered her body.
    "You have to swim," her husband implored.
    "I can't swim," she told him.
    Chamorro said a half-hour passed. She cried for help. No one seemed to hear her. From a distance she could hear her husband urging her to swim.
    Evangelina Chamorro emerges covered in mud and walks her way out of danger.
    "I can't take it anymore," she shouted back.
    She said she lost sight of her husband. And she couldn't hear him amid the roar.
    "I didn't know if he made it," she said. "All that time, I swallowed mud. I was covered in it. What do I do? I could only think of what life would be like for my daughters without their parents."
    More than half a million people in and around Lima have been affected by storms and flooding, authorities said.
    Weeks of rain have caused rivers across the country to rise. The rainy season began this month. The Peruvian government said more than 60,000 people have been displaced and several cities declared states of emergency.
    Chamorro said she prayed for strength as she floated in the mud. She thought about her girls. At one point she saw people nearby but they were unable to reach her.
    Chamorro climbed out from branches and planks the same color as her mud-covered body.
    She recalled arriving at the Punta Hermosa bridge. A shipping container became lodged under the bridge. The fast-moving water slowed for a moment. A cow managed to escape the sludge.
    "I thanked God," Chamorro said. "He gave me strength. I had none left, not even to breathe. Lord, please do not leave my daughters without their parents."
    In the video taken by a witness, Chamorro slowly emerges from piles of tree branches and wooden planks the same color as her mud-covered body. Her bare feet step gingerly through the mire. "Help her!" someone is heard saying.
    At the river's edge she collapsed face-first into the mud. Bystanders and paramedics picked her up.
    "I remember taking two steps from the debris," said Chamorro, who was treated for bruises and shock. "I don't know who carried me. I woke up in the ambulance. I felt no more pain."