The 11-year-old boy who was rescued in a 16-hour operation that also freed his two younger brothers after the earthquake that struck the island of Ischia said in an interview with Italian media Wednesday that "it is a miracle we are all still alive."
Ciro Marmolo spoke to La Repubblica in a hospital room where he is being treated for a fracture suffered when his right foot was immobilized by rubble. Doctors say the fracture is not serious and is expected to fully heal, but the boy will be transferred to a hospital in Naples where specialists can monitor his circulation.
Ciro was hailed as a hero by officials, who praised his courage throughout the ordeal and said he helped save his middle brother, 7-year-old Mattias, by pushing him under the bed.
"It is already a lot that we are all alive," Ciro told La Repubblica in a video that had his face pixelated, in line with restrictions in Italy on publishing images of minors. "In a second phase, we need to think about a new house, our most valuable objects and our memories."
"This is the proof that God exists," he said. "It is a miracle we are all still alive."
The Toscano-Marmolo family has been left homeless by the quake that struck the northern side of the island off Naples on Monday evening, killing two people including one of their neighbors.
While the boys' mother and the stepfather of the two older boys were quickly brought to safety after the Monday evening quake, it took dozens of firefighters working overnight to free first 7-month-old Pasquale after seven hours, Mattias another seven hours later and finally Ciro.
Ciro said that rescuers stayed upbeat throughout the operation, telling them not to worry and that help had arrived.
The last thing he remembered during the ordeal was waking up after having fainted, and seeing what had been a small hole now large.
"My brother wasn't there anymore, and I had an oxygen mask on my face," he said. "Then with a rope, they pulled me up, all of them, slowly, slowly. Then there were all the people, friends, relatives, at the ambulance and they gave a huge round of applause."
Doctors said that Mattias would be released from the hospital on Wednesday but that the boys' mother, Alessia, and baby Pasquale will remain until the family has a new place to live.
"Even if this is hospital and not a place to recuperate, it seemed terrible to put on the street a pregnant mother who suffered all that she has suffered, and is in an unusual psychological situation," Dr. Giuseppe Parisi told reporters in Ischia.
Authorities have organized emergency shelter, which housed 200 people on Tuesday night, down from 2,600 the night of the quake. It was not clear where Mattias and his stepfather, Alessandro Toscano, would be staying in the meantime, but Mattias' and Ciro's biological father and other family members have been present throughout the ordeal.
During his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis offered prays for the victims and those who lost their homes in the Ischia quake, which came just days before the one-year anniversary of a much stronger, 6.2-magnitude quake that destroyed several towns in central Italy, killing nearly 300 people.