"Faith in love" saves woman's life in Iran earthquake

Thu Dec 14, 2017 14:41:55

Fooldai district is the most damaged area of Sarpol e Zahab because of its old structures, but that hasn't stopped the dissemination of miraculous stories of survival.

(KYODO NEWS) -- A month after the magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck Iran's western province of Kermanshah, killing at least 620 people and injured more than 9,000, miraculous stories of survival against the odds continue to emerge.

In Sarpol e Zahab, the hardest-hit city, thousands of people are still living in tents next to the debris of their former homes. Many people, seeking to forget the pain of their continued displacement, are talking about one couple in particular with an incredible tale of luck and perseverance.


Speaking to Kyodo News, Faranak Karimi, 23, who was stuck under the debris of a two-story building for 16 hours, recounted her survival and reunion with her husband "only because of faith in the power of love."


Faranak and her husband Payam Karimi, 24, got married about four years ago. They were enjoying the positive result of Faranak's pregnancy test which was announced by her doctor two weeks before the quake and they were planning for a "shining birthdate and future" for their baby.


Just before the quake struck at 9:48 p.m. on Nov. 12, Faranak was watching television and she was alone in the dining room while Payam was talking with a friend near their house.


"I felt a huge shock in the ground and I tried to escape from the building but something hard hit my back and I fell down in front of the bedroom. I didn't lose consciousness and felt the crashing and collapsing of the entire building on myself," Faranak said.


"A big girder collapsed on my body but stopped just before squishing me. It stopped only one or two centimeters away from my head. That girder stopped other stones and saved my life while I was stuck in a half-meter space and my legs were under debris," she added.


While Faranak was stuck under the debris, Payam just arrived but he could not distinguish their house because of the huge devastation in their neighborhood.


Fooldai district, where they live, is the most damaged area of Sarpol e Zahab because of its old structures. Dozens of people died there in the quake.


"Everywhere was destroyed. Firstly I couldn't find our house but later based on some familiar signs I was able to distinguish it. It was a hill of debris," Payam said.


Payam climbed the hill of debris and started calling out for his wife while he was trying in vain to move heavy stones and beams.


A few hours later some family members and a friend joined him in searching but even their collective efforts hardly produced results.


"All the time that Payam and others were searching for me I could hear them. I was answering them, shouting their names but they couldn't hear me," Faranak said.


"It was around 3:30 a.m. that the Red Crescent's rescue team arrived at our house with two dogs and searched everywhere but they couldn't find my wife. They thought she had died," Payam said.


Payam continued calling out her name, turning over debris until sunrise, when more rescuers arrived and tried to convince him of his wife's death so they could clear the debris with heavy equipment.


"I was hearing all their discussions, they were trying to convince Payam about my death. Even my uncle offered to prepare a grave for my body...but fortunately Payam didn't believe them," Faranak said.


Faranak herself prepared for death if they rejected her husband's pleas.


"I didn't want to die and I was asking God to donate me a new life only for my baby," Faranak said.


Around 7:30 a.m., a rescue team finally lost patience with Payam and decided to remove the rubble and debris over his objections. A bulldozer driver started his giant machine on and tried to move toward the debris but he found Payam standing in his way.


"I asked God to show me a miracle and bring back my love. Completely unintentionally I was standing in the way of the bulldozer. I raised my hand and shouted at him to turn off the machine," Payam said.


Payam climbed on the debris one more time and moved some stones and bricks and found a "dark and deep hole." Once again, he called his wife's name twice, but this time he heard a faint reply. It was Faranak, who was calling Payam's name very slowly.


Payam was "very happy and excited" and told the rescue team that his wife is alive but no one believed him. They asked Payam to stop wasting their time.


Payam demanded everyone to try for themselves. Some from the rescue team climbed the debris and called out to Faranak in the same hole, and they too heard her reply.


"Suddenly, happiness and hope came back to all the people who were waiting there. The rescue team decided on another plan and they started to widen the hole by hand, not with machines," said Salar Rostami, who witnessed the rescue.


"I felt Payam when he was moving on the debris and I could hear him more clearly when he moved some debris. I thought maybe this is my last chance then I tried to reply as strong as I could but I had become really weak. Eventually, I answered him and clarified the exact place which I was trapped," Faranak said.


"I'm here, in front of your sister's bedroom," Faranak told Payam and the rescue team.


After being pulled out alive, a helicopter took her and Payam to a hospital in Kermanshah for a health check, where doctors told them their unborn baby is still alive and that Faranak did not suffer serious injury.




Although Faranak still has trouble sleeping in a room or tent due to lingering claustrophobia caused by her ordeal, the couple are very happy that both are alive.


About two years ago, Faranak nearly lost Payam in a traffic accident. "He was in a coma for months and I was feeding him with a dropper but I never gave up and God gave him back. Now Payam returned the favor by saving my life," Faranak said.


"Our survival is very meaningful and the only reason for it is faith in the power of love. From now on we should plan for our future and the birth of our baby even though we don't have a house or a penny. But we are hopeful," Faranak said.

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