Two chocolate bars keep snow-trapped student alive for nine days

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A US university student survived for nine days on just two chocolate bars while her car was stuck in the snow in a remote area of Arizona following blizzards which swept through five US states.

In neighbouring New Mexico, a family found themselves struggling to breathe after nearly two days in their SUV, which was buried in a snowdrift on a rural road.

Authorities said all were recovering in hospital.

The student, 23-year-old Lauren Weinberg, was seen leaving her mother’s home on December 11. A day later, she decided to drive to the north-eastern part of the state when the storms set in. Coconino County sheriff’s spokesman Gerry Blair said she unwittingly became stranded when a paved road she had taken became a dirt track near a line of cliffs that divides the state’s high country from the desert. Her car became trapped when she stopped to try to open a gate.

Ms Weinberg said she put snow in a water bottle and placed it on the car so it would melt and be drinkable and she rationed out for herself portions of two candy bars she had bought earlier.

The alarm was raised when she failed to turn up for an end-of-term exam, but she was only discovered by US Forest Service employees on snowmobiles checking if gates on forest roads were closed.

“I am so thankful to be alive and warm,” Ms Weinberg said through a spokeswoman at the Flagstaff Medical Centre. “Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers, because they worked. There were times I was afraid but mostly I had faith I would be found.”

In New Mexico, rescuers had to dig through 4 feet (1.2 metres) of ice and snow to free the Higgins family, whose SUV got stuck on a road when a blizzard moved through the area Monday, state police said.

Rescuers found David and Yvonne Higgins and their five-year-old daughter Hannah clinging to each other early on Wednesday.

Mr Higgins said he and his wife both had pneumonia but his daughter was fine.

The family left their home on Sunday for a ski trip but visibility eventually dropped to zero in falling snow and stopped them in their tracks.

Mr Higgins was able to keep the car running for a couple of hours, but when he wanted to clear the exhaust pipe, his door was blocked.

The Higginses had plenty of water plus sandwiches and crisps. But as time passed, it seemed as if they were working harder to breathe inside the buried vehicle.

He reached his brother in Texas by mobile phone and the call was relayed to state police, who launched a search. “They pulled us up and out of it,” Mr Higgins said.