Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: a newborn baby pulled alive from the rubble was still connected by the umbilical cord to his dead mother

Steph Deschamps / February 8, 2023

In the rubble of a house in Jandairis, a town in Syria hit hard by Monday's earthquake, rescuers discovered a living baby, still connected by the umbilical cord to its dead mother.


The little girl is the sole survivor of a family whose other members all died in the collapse of their four-story building. In this locality bordering Turkey, rescue workers removed the bodies of her father, Abdallah Mleihan, her mother, Aafra, her three sisters, her brother and her aunt.


We were looking for Abu Roudayna (Abdallah's nickname) and his family, we first found his sister, then his wife, then Abu Roudayna, who were grouped together close to each other," said Khalil Sawadi, a family member who is still in shock.


Then we heard a noise while we were digging (...) we cleared the ground and found this little one, thank God," he added. The baby had the umbilical cord still attached to her mother. "We cut it and my cousin took the baby to the hospital," Khalil Sawadi continued.


In a video circulating on social networks, a man can be seen holding up a naked baby, covered in dust, with the umbilical cord still dangling. As the temperature approaches zero degrees Celsius, another man throws him a blanket to cover the newborn. The baby was taken to the hospital in the nearby town of Afrin.


The rescue workers spent hours before they could free the bodies of the rest of the family, one after the other, with little means. They lined them up in the house of a relative, covered with sheets of different colors to identify them, while waiting for the funeral.


In the dimly lit room, Khalil Sawadi lists their names. "We are displaced from Deir Ezzor, Abdallah is my cousin and I am married to his sister," he says.

The family had fled the volatile Deir Ezzor region further east, believing they would be safer in Jandairis, a locality controlled since 2018 by Turkish forces and pro-Turkish rebel groups.


About 50 houses collapsed in this town in northwestern Syria, relatively close to the epicenter of the earthquake in Turkey, whose streets are littered with debris, according to an AFP correspondent.


The earthquake has killed more than 5,000 people in Turkey and Syria. For the areas outside the control of the Syrian regime alone, where aid is sorely lacking, the death toll is currently around 800.


According to the White Helmets, rescue workers who work in these areas, more than 200 buildings have totally collapsed in the area.


The group pleaded with international aid organizations on Tuesday to come to the aid of these disaster-stricken and forgotten areas. "Time is running out. Hundreds of people are still trapped under the rubble," it said.

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