The air was growing warmer. He dropped to his knees and began burrowing into the cold weight of the potatoes, pushing with his feet, protecting the long tank with his body and yanking it along beneath him with one hand. With the other he made awkward swimming motions.
He heard potatoes avalanche down behind him and fought a panicky urge to back out. It was like being buried alive, and telling himself that if he wasn’t buried alive he’d surely die didn’t help much. He was gasping, coughing, seeming to breathe in as much potato-dirt as air. He clapped the oxygen mask over his face and … Nothing.
Question 1: Does “if he wasn’t buried alive he’d surely die” mean that “if he wasn’t buried alive he’d surely be burned alive” because the fire was burning outside the basement and it would push in at any time?
Question 2: Does “...didn’t help much” mean “... didn’t help him fight a panicky urge to back out (he would still rather back out than be buried alive)?