IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Woman found alive in Iran quake rubble

Iranian rescue workers pulled a 97-year-old woman from the rubble on Saturday, nine days after an earthquake razed this city.
Sharbanou Mazandarani receives treatment at a field hospital after she was pulled alive and unscathed from the rubble in Bam, Iran, on Saturday, nine days after an earthquake destroyed the city.Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iranian rescue workers pulled a 97-year-old woman from the rubble Saturday, nine days after an earthquake razed this city. U.N. officials warned many survivors were suffering psychological disorders as the confirmed death toll rose to 29,700.

Sharbanou Mazandarani asked for a cup of tea after emerging uninjured, then complained it was too hot to drink, rescuers said.

“God kept me alive,” Mazandarani said.

Rescuers said she was saved by furniture that protected her from falling masonry. Search dogs located Mazandarani under a collapsed building and it took three hours of digging to pull her out.

“No one expected her to be alive. It’s a miracle,” provincial government spokesman Asadollah Iranmanesh said. The official Iranian news agency quoted the Red Crescent Society as saying Mazandarani was 97.

Rising death toll
A report by the U.N. Disaster Assessment Coordination Team said the confirmed death toll from the Dec. 26 quake had risen to 29,700 with the addition of 1,700 burials in villages around the southeastern city of Bam. It said there are believed to be at least 5,000 unregistered burials.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder is highly prevalent,” the U.N. report said. On Friday the U.S. field hospital operated on a young Iranian soldier who tried to commit suicide by shooting himself after discovering the Dec. 26 quake had wiped out his family.

“If we don’t pay the best attention to this, it will lead to more cases of depression, suicide and other mental health problems,” said Dr. Mohammad Farojpour, the head of Kerman province’s mental health department.

French and German aid groups were flying in 130 psychologists and psychiatrists to counsel survivors, the U.N. report said. The Iranian Red Crescent Society has already deployed 40 women counselors to Bam.

The quake of magnitude 6.6 damaged as much as 85 percent of Bam’s buildings beyond repair, the report said. Tent camps with heating were being erected around the city, U.N. officials said.

Farojpour said the supply of opium to the city’s addicts had been disrupted. Before the temblor, an estimated 20 percent of people over the age of 15 in a population of 80,000 were believed to be addicted.

Methadone, codeine and sterile syringes were being given to drug addicts, Farojpour said.

The United Nations plans to complete within four days an assessment of the city’s needs for water, sanitation, food and shelter. The facts are to be presented in an appeal to international donors.

Bill Garvelink, head of the U.S. relief team in Bam said the destruction was worse than any quake zone he had seen.

“It’s incredible,” Garvelink said. “Bam is literally a rubble pile. I haven’t seen any business functioning and you don’t see anybody living in their homes.”

U.S.-Iran tensions persist
On Friday, Iran’s state radio, which is controlled by conservatives, accused President Bush of interference in Iran. Bush had said he was glad Iran accepted U.S. assistance, but stressed that its government must embrace democratic reforms and turn over detainees from the al-Qaida terror group. Iran says its handling of the al-Qaida detainees is an internal matter.

The U.S. team in Bam has been generally well received by local doctors and citizens. Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic relations since militants seized the U.S. Embassy in the Iranian capital in 1979.

Figures for the overall dead have varied because of differing estimates of the bodies still under the rubble. Earlier this week a U.N. report said the death toll was at least 33,000, but only 28,000 people had been buried. A provincial government spokesman, Asadollah Iranmanesh, has predicted the final toll would be between 30,000 and 40,000.