By Ghaith Alsayed and Bassem Mroue
Residents digging through a collapsed building in a northwest Syrian town discovered a crying infant
whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried underneath the rubble from this week’s
devastating earthquake, relatives and a doctor said Tuesday.
The new-born girl’s umbilical cord was still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was
dead, they said. The baby was the only member of her family to survive from the building collapse
Monday in the small town of Jinderis, next to the Turkish border, Ramadan Sleiman, a relative, told
The Associated Press.
Monday’s pre-dawn 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by multiple aftershocks, caused widespread
destruction across southern Turkey 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 new-born baby was rescued 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, where she has been kept on an incubator, said the
doctor treating the baby, Dr Hani Maarouf.
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, and rushes away as another man
throws him a blanket to wrap her in.
The baby’s body temperature had fallen to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and she had
bruises, including a large one on her back, but she is in stable condition, he said.
Abu Hadiya must have been conscious during the birth and must have died soon after, 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, 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 Sleiman, who arrived at the scene just after the
new-born 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 new-born, 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 northwest Syria, was hard hit in the quake, with dozens
of buildings that collapsed.
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 U.S.-backed Kurdish led fighters, Sleiman said.
On Tuesday, 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.
Back inside the town, rescue operations were still ongoing in their building hoping to find survivors.
The town saw another dramatic rescue 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 dazedly 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 tenderly 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 was already being battered by years of war and strained by the influx of displaced
people from the country’s civil war, which began in 2011.
Monday’s earthquake killed hundreds across the area, and the toll was continually mounting with
hundreds believed still lost under the rubble. The quake completely or partially toppled more than 730
buildings and damaged thousands more in the territory, according to the White Helmets, as the area’s
civil defence is known.
The White Helmets have years of experience in digging victims out from buildings crushed by
bombardment from Russian warplanes or Syrian government forces. An earthquake is a new disaster
for them.
“They are both catastrophes — a catastrophe that has been ongoing for 12 years and the criminal has
not been held accountable, and this one is a natural catastrophe,” said the deputy head of the White
Helmets, Munir Mustafa.
Asked if there was a difference between rescue work in the quake and during the war, he said, “We
cannot compare death with death … What we are witnessing today is death on top of death.” –
The baby girl received treatment at a children’s hospital in the town of Afrin, Aleppo province, Syria,
on Tuesday. – Photo by Ghaith Alsayed/Associated Press

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