The sister of a man who claimed he and five companions survived 35 days in the rubble of the Armenian earthquake says the story was made up so her brother could get into a good hospital, Tass reported Saturday.
The Soviet news agency said reporters had tracked down Aikaz Akopyan's sister, Julietta, who Akopyan said witnessed his rescue Jan. 11 from the ruins of his nine-story apartment building in the city of Leninakan.Neither officials nor local journalists had been able to find his sister or the five people reportedly rescued with Akopyan. They could find no witnesses to the reported rescue.
"At first the sister denied her kinship with Akopyan but later on acknowledged that it was she who had brought Aikaz to the Yerevan hospital and that he really was her brother," Tass said.
"According to her words, it appears that on Jan. 6 Aikaz requested her to drive him to a good Yerevan hospital and it was on the way to Yerevan that a story of rescue after 35 days was ostensibly invented," it said.
Tass quoted Lt. Col. V. Kozlov of the Armenian civil defense medical service as saying that according to data he had available, Akopyan was rescued five days after the Dec. 7 earthquake, and that on Jan. 6 he had sought drugs from Leninakan hospital for an allergy. But he added that there are many people with the last name Akopyan in Leninakan.
However, the news agency said Akopyan, now in a hospital in Yerevan, was sticking to his story and that doctors could not rule out the possibility it was true. It said reporters still had been unable to clarify all details of the case and that Akopyan had threatened to jump out of the window in his hospital room if reporters didn't leave him alone.
Doctors "regard the threat as quite realisitic," Tass said.
Tass reported Thursday the rescue from the ruins of the quake that killed about 25,000 people. That night, the 50-year-old electrician was shown in his hospital bed on Soviet television.
But the news agency cast doubt on the story the following day, saying that no witnesses had been found. "Everyone wanted to believe in the Leninakan miracle," it said.
Akopyan was reported to be suffering from pneumonia as a result of the confinement when he was admitted to the hospital.
But Tass said Saturday that Gurgen Badanyan, whom it identified as the leading Soviet internal medicine specialist, believed Akopyan had been suffering chronic lung and heart deficiencies for several years.