Iran News ...


1/6/04

Red Crescent Earthquake Rescue in Iran Inspires Threads of Hope

By Denis McClean, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Tuesday, January 06, 2004 - BAM, Iran- She has become a nine-day wonder. That's about how long the world's oldest and most famous earthquake survivor spent hidden from view in the ruins of her home until she was pulled out alive on Saturday afternoon.

Hidden from view that is, except for a protruding hand which eventually led to her rescue by a team of Iranian Red Crescent volunteers who were combing the ruins of the Baghe Narang district of the earthquake devastated city of Bam recovering bodies.

Shahrbanoo Mazandarani was resting today in a canvas medical ward hardly aware of the media blitz her amazing rescue by the Iranian Red Crescent on Saturday afternoon had generated around the world.

She had been trapped in her bed since the early hours of Dec. 26, shortly after she had been served an early breakfast in bed by her family. It was this meal which sustained through the nine days that followed.

Mrs. Mazandarani was obviously pleased last night when she was transferred from the intensive care unit to the more sociable environs of the female medical ward of the newly established Red Cross Red Crescent field hospital.

"She was delighted to be moved to the medical ward. The visitors to the other patients are all making a great fuss over her as you can imagine. I think she likes the attention," said a smiling Finnish Red Cross ward nurse, Tiina Saarkikoski.

Her rescue on Saturday afternoon brought tears of joy to many in this ancient city where mass burials and the recovery of corpses have been a daily undertaking since tragedy struck on that cold December morning ten days ago. Some 30,000 people have since been buried and many of them were recovered by teams of young volunteers from the Iranian Red Crescent.

Mrs. Mazandarani was not the first person to be rescued from the rubble of Bam but sadly she may be the last, admitted Mustafa Mohaghegh, head of the Iranian Red Crescent international affairs department.

"Her rescue has been a wonderful experience for our volunteers. It motivates them to keep going but there are very few places now left where we have not searched thoroughly," said Mohaghegh.

There were scenes of great elation and excitement at the Red Crescent headquarters in Bam on Saturday afternoon when news of the rescue was quickly followed by an ambulance arriving with the revered survivor on board.

The first person to speak to her when she arrived at the makeshift clinic in a converted warehouse was 34-year-old Red Crescent volunteer Zohreh Shahyar who had journeyed from Gom province to take part in the relief effort alongside 8,500 Iranian Red Crescent staff and volunteers from all over the country.

"The first thing she said to me was 'I feel very cold', she asked me to put my hand behind her head, then she asked for tea and said the tea was too hot and she explained that she wanted it to be given to her by teaspoon. She also recited some Persian poetry," said Zohreh.

She was first examined by Dr. Habib Moghadam, who was deeply moved by the story of her survival.

"She has no broken limbs and looks very well generally. She has a good memory and is responding well to questions. It's like a miracle of God that someone of this age and in this situation has survived so long," said Dr. Moghadam.

The miracle was explained yesterday by Dr. Paul Odberg, the Norwegian Red Cross medical director of the hospital. After a good night's rest and a light breakfast, she told Dr. Odberg and other members of the medical staff that she had been trapped in her bed but had access to some food and drink which had been served to her by her family in the early morning prior to the earthquake on Dec. 26.

"Her condition is consistent with someone who has been unable to move for several days. She is suffering from contractions of the limbs which means that she cannot walk and her limbs are almost 'frozen'. She will need intensive physical therapy," he said.

Efforts continue by the Iranian Red Crescent to see if any of Mrs. Mazandarani's relatives - including two children and two grandchildren - survived the earthquake but so far none have been traced.

Contacting Families in Iran

Phone communication has been partially restored, and those with family and loved ones in the region are being encouraged to continue to contact them by traditional means. When that falls though, the American Red Cross is there to help. Red Cross volunteers at local chapters will collect information on relatives believed to be missing and send these inquiries to staff at the American Red Cross National Headquarters, who will then work directly with the Iranian Red Crescent society to locate missing family members.

What You Can Do To Help

You can help those affected by the earthquake in Iran and countless other crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance, and other support to those in need. Donate online or call toll free 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-257-7575 for Spanish speakers) or you can mail in your gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

To find out additional information on how to help earthquake victims, please visit our special page regarding donations for relief in Iran

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