Newborn baby saved from rubble as rescuers search for earthquake survivors in Syria and Türkiye

Newborn baby saved from rubble as rescuers search for earthquake survivors in Syria and Türkiye

Wednesday 08/02/2023
The newborn girl was found under the rubble of this building in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria.(AP: Ghaith Alsayed)

Residents digging through a collapsed building in a north-west Syrian town have discovered a crying infant whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried underneath the rubble from this week’s devastating earthquake, according to relatives and a doctor.

The mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, died before rescue workers reached her.

The newborn girl’s umbilical cord was still connected to her mother's body, they said.

Ramadan Sleiman, a family relative, said the baby was the only member of her family to survive the building collapse in the small town of Jinderis.

Monday’s pre-dawn magnitude 7.8 earthquake, followed by multiple aftershocks, caused widespread destruction across southern Türkiye and northern Syria.

Thousands have been killed, with the toll mounting as more bodies are discovered. But dramatic rescues have also occurred.

Elsewhere in Jinderis, a young girl was found alive, buried in concrete under the wreckage of her home.

The newborn baby was rescued on Monday afternoon, more than 10 hours after the quake struck.

After rescuers dug her out, a female neighbour cut the cord, and she and others rushed with the baby to a children’s hospital in the nearby town of Afrin.

Doctor Hani Maarouf said the baby was stable and being kept in an incubator.

Her body temperature had fallen to 35 degrees Celsius and she had bruises, including a large one on her back, but she is in stable condition, he said.

'An hour more, she would have died'

Video of the rescue circulating on social media shows the moments after the baby was removed from the rubble, as a man lifts her up, her umbilical cord still dangling, as another man throws him a blanket to wrap her in.

Ms Abu Hadiya must have been conscious during the birth and must have died soon after, Dr Maarouf said.

He estimated the baby was born several hours before being found, given the amount her temperature had dropped.

If the girl had been born just before the quake, she wouldn’t have survived so many hours in the cold, he said.

"Had the girl been left for an hour more, she would have died," he said.

When the earthquake hit before dawn on Monday, Ms Abu Hadiya, her husband and four children apparently tried to rush out of their apartment building, but the structure collapsed on them.

Their bodies were found near the building’s entrance, said Mr Sleiman, who arrived at the scene just after the newborn was discovered.

“She was found in front of her mother’s legs,” he said.

“After the dust and rocks were removed the girl was found alive."

Dr Maarouf said the baby weighed 3.175 kilograms, an average weight for a newborn, and so was carried nearly to term.

"Our only concern is the bruise on her back, and we have to see whether there is any problem with her spinal cord," he said, saying she has been moving her legs and arms normally.

Jinderis, located in the rebel-held enclave of north-west Syria, was hard hit in the quake, with dozens of buildings that collapsed.

Ms Abu Hadiya and her family were among the millions of Syrians who fled to the rebel-held territory from other parts of the country.

They were originally from the village of Khsham in eastern Deir el-Zour province, but left in 2014 after the Islamic State group captured their village, said a relative who identified himself as Saleh al-Badran.

In 2018, the family moved to Jinderis after the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, an umbrella for several insurgent groups, captured the town from US-backed Kurdish led fighters, Mr Sleiman said.

On Tuesday, Ms Abu Hadiya and the girl’s father Abdullah Turki Mleihan, along with their four other children were laid to rest in a cemetery on the outskirts of Jinderis.

Toddler rescued

Back inside the town, rescue operations were still ongoing in their building hoping to find survivors.

The town saw another dramatic rescue on Monday evening, when a toddler was pulled alive from the wreckage of a collapsed building.

Video from the White Helmets, the emergency service in the region, shows a rescuer digging through crushed concrete amid twisted metal until the little girl, named Nour, appeared.

The girl, still half buried, looks up as they tell her, "Dad is here, don’t be scared. … Talk to your dad, talk."

A rescuer cradled her head in his hands and wiped dust from around her eyes before she was pulled out.

The quake has wreaked new devastation in the opposition-held zone, centred on the Syrian province of Idlib, which had already been battered by years of war and strained by the influx of displaced people from the country’s civil war, which began in 2011.

Story By: AP

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