BAM, Iran – A 97-year-old woman rescued after spending nine days under earthquake rubble said Friday she no longer fears dying after her "semi-death" experience.
"My bed had turned into a grave with me alive in it. I was alone as days and nights passed by. I had only one partner: God," Sharbanou Mazandarani told The Associated Press.
Mazandarani weighs less than 66 pounds, but she's feisty, talkative and in good physical condition. Workers at a Finnish field hospital said the old woman is ready to be released, but they are trying to find any extended family members she can live with.
The survival of Mazandarani and an another quake victim found Wednesday have amazed doctors who have been helping Bam (search) recover from the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that shattered the ancient city on Dec. 26. The quake killed more than 30,000 people and injured about 15,000.
The other survivor, a 57-year-old man, was pulled from the rubble barely conscious. Rescuers believe he may have had a source of water during the 13 days he was buried.
The man, named Jalil, later slipped into unconsciousness. Although he was described Friday as stable, his prognosis remained uncertain.
Mazandarani, meanwhile, is ready to get on with life and happy to talk about her story of survival -- which she proudly calls one for the history books.
"God saved my life. There was nothing for me to drink or eat. I was about to starve to death but I was confident that I wouldn't die because God was on my side," Mazandarani told a reporter from her hospital bed.
Doctors have said it was possible the low metabolism customary among old people could have helped the woman endure for so long without food.
Mazandarani was discovered by rescue workers on Jan. 3, her bed protected in an air pocket between two fallen walls of her home.
She said she was not afraid of dying, but paused a few moments before explaining herself in broken words.
"Well, everybody, including the aged, like to live as long as possible. But I'm not afraid of death. I have the experience of a semi-death ordeal behind me," Mazandarani said.
"I have pains from head to toe," she added.
During the interview, she kept demanding sugar cubes and water.
"She is very talkative and in good physical conditions," said Lasse Kylanpaa, spokesman of the Finnish Red Cross (search) team. "She can be discharged now, but we are looking after her because there are yet no traces of even an extended family."
The old woman's spirit became evident almost as soon as she was pulled from the rubble. She asked for a cup of tea, got it and then promptly started grumbling that it was too hot to drink.
Now, when she gets water, she won't accept any assistance drinking it.
"She wants to do everything herself without anybody helping her," said a Finnish nurse, Tiina Saarikoski.
She has received a stream of visiting journalists and dignitaries, including Queen Rania (search) of Jordan, who stopped by on Wednesday.
Mazandarani talks so much that workers finally put her in a field hospital tent away from the other patients so the others could get some sleep, Kylanpaa said.
Mazandarani said her husband died 20 years ago. She believes her two sons perished in the quake.
Kylanpaa said rescue staff from the Iranian Red Crescent initially thought they had found a corpse when they spotted an arm poking out from the rubble. But when they touched it, the hand moved.
"Her story is an unbelievable story of a coincidence," Kylanpaa said.
Mazandarani describes her days under the rubble as a long prayer session.
"All I did was pray to God with thanks for being alive and recite verses from the Quran," she said.
Not too far away, doctors and nurses at the Ukranian field hospital on Friday were looking after a newborn girl whose mother died after a natural delivery in a lonely village house outside Bam.
Mohammad Reza Tahmasebi, who is in charge of the Ukrainian hospital, said the baby was recovered early Friday by relatives, just hours after she was born. The mother had been left alone to bury the bodies of close relatives, and no one knew she was about to go into labor. She delivered the baby by herself then bled to death, Tahmasebi said.
"We named the baby Ozra, her mother's name," Tahmasebi said, adding that the father has been suffering from depression after losing many relatives and has been unable to care for the baby.