Iran quake survivor of 97 owes life to bed and breakfast

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The Independent Online

A woman of 97 rescued after nine days in the rubble of the earthquake which hit the Iranian city of Bam, probably survived because she was wrapped up in bed and had just eaten breakfast when the disaster happened.

Shahrbanou Mazandarani was discovered by rescue workers on Saturday, her bed protected in an air pocket between two fallen walls. She was yesterday described as being in "remarkably good shape" by Dr Paul Odberg, medical co-ordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Bam.

The rescuers, from the Iranian Red Crescent, had spotted an arm poking from the rubble as they retrieved bodies. "They thought it was a dead body and then they dug out this lady of 97 years old who was wrapped up inside her bed," Dr Odberg said. "She says that just before the earthquake, her family had brought her food and drink into her bedroom. That, and being wrapped up in her own bed, probably saved her life."

Although she cannot remember anything about the earthquake, the woman told Dr Odberg that while under the rubble, she spent her time "reciting verses from the Koran, praying to God and thanking Allah for being alive." She said her family died in the earthquake on 26 December.

Dr Odberg thought her account sounded believable. He said it was possible that low metabolism customary among old people could have helped her endure with minimal sustenance for so long. "There were remarkable coincidences that gave her the luck she needed to survive," he said. (AP)