A pregnant woman gave birth while trapped under a building that collapsed during the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday, according to local reports.
Rescuers were seen pulling the newborn child from the chaotic mass of collapsed concrete and rebar in what remained of the family’s home in Jinderis, Syria, a small town north of Aleppo. The mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, did not survive.
Residents told the Associated Press that they discovered the crying infant girl with her umbilical cord still connected to her mother, who was found dead.
The baby was the only member of her family to survive, said Ramadan Sleiman, a relative.
The newborn was found under the five-storey apartment building more than 10 hours after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck. She was rushed to a nearby children’s hospital where she is being kept in an incubator, according to Dr. Hani Maarouf, her physician.
The baby’s 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.
Maarouf said he believed the baby had been born about three hours before being found, given the amount her temperature had dropped.
Activist group The White Helmets, a volunteer medical and search-and-rescue organization that operates in Syria and parts of Turkey, posted an aerial image of what remains of Jinderis after Monday’s pre-dawn quake devastated the region.
White Helmet volunteers have been working “tirelessly” since then to rescue civilians trapped under the rubble.
Other dramatic videos of rescue teams pulling people out from under collapsed buildings are circulating online as emergency aid and support workers from around the world pour into Turkey and Syria to assist.
Rescuers have been working in freezing temperatures, sometimes digging with their bare hands, to find people under toppled buildings. But with the damage spread over a wide area, aid workers are struggling to reach some devastated towns.
As of Tuesday, the death toll from the earthquake has soared above 5,000 and is still expected to rise.
Monday’s quake cut a swath of destruction that stretched hundreds of kilometres across southeastern Turkey and neighbouring Syria, toppling thousands of buildings and heaping more misery on a region shaped by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.
Aftershocks then rattled tangled piles of metal and concrete, making the search efforts perilous, while freezing temperatures made them ever more urgent.
The scale of the suffering — and the accompanying rescue effort — is staggering.
More than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris in Turkey alone, and some 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, said Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay. They huddled in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres, while others spent the night outside in blankets gathering around fires.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people were affected in some way — and declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces in order to manage the response.
For the entire quake-hit area, that number could be as high as 23 million people, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergencies officer with the World Health Organization.
— With files from The Associated Press