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'Scared' missing woman, 22, found trapped in 9-metre deep ditch

It took skilled firefighters hours to reach Maria, who vanished from her home without her mobile phone or money.

A young woman missing for more than 36 hours has been found alive and injured at the bottom of a roughly nine-metre deep ditch just a few minutes from home.

Maria Cristina Simoes Ferreira e Penha, 22, remained stuck between a steep slope and a construction site after she slipped and fell while walking around the neighbourhood of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, in southeast Brazil on the night of May 26.

Maria smiling with her hair and makeup done and being removed from the ditch by rescuers on a stretcher.
Maria was reported missing after she slipped and fell into a 9-metre deep ditch while walking around her neighbourhood. Source: CEN/Australscope

She was found when a neighbour heard her cries for help and phoned emergency services on the morning of May 28. Because Maria was trapped in a location that was very difficult to access, it took skilled firefighters two hours to reach her during the rescue operation.

Footage shows the moment firefighters manage to get to the terrified woman and carefully carry her out on a stretcher. Another clip shows firefighters slowly lowering a metal ladder as they go down into the ditch the girl was stuck in.

Firefighters and police at the scene. Firefighters seen carrying large ladder to the ditch.
Footage shows firefighters working for hours to rescue the terrified woman. Source: CEN/Australscope

Family worries after woman vanishes

Maria's family first realised that she had disappeared when she failed to return on the night of May 26. She had left her mobile phone and money at home, so worried family members began searching for her.

"She went out and sat near a club. But she slipped and fell in this ditch," her dad, Carlos Onofre, told local media.

The ditch is within walking distance of her residence and is approximately nine-metres deep. It is surrounded by a house under construction and scrubland, in addition to several plots of land around it.

Woman was 'conscious but scared'

To ensure the safety of the victim during the rescue, part of the wall of the house under construction had to be broken, using a grinding machine and sledgehammers.

"A ladder was used and a descent of approximately 10 metres was performed, where contact was made with the victim, who was conscious, but scared," the fire department said. "The fire crews, for safer access to the victim and those involved, decided to open access in the wall.

"After a lot of work and extreme care, the victim was reached and safely removed."

Maria wearing a pink shirt and smiling. Right, rescuers pulling Maria from the ditch.
Maria's dad said he is incredibly relieved his daughter has been found. Source: CEN/Australscope

Dad relieved to have daughter back

After more than 36 hours of anguish, Maria's father said he was relieved.

"I have a lot of faith, you know! I had asked God to bring my daughter back the way she was and God's will be done. I am very grateful to God that she is alive and well," Carlos added.

The 22-year-old was taken by the Mobile Emergency Care Service with minor injuries. Afterwards, she was transferred to a local hospital, where she remains.


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