Turkey-Syria earthquake: Baby pulled from rubble after mum gives birth under flattened building

This video contains distressing images

Emma Murphy reports from Turkey, where rescue workers are engaging in a frantic race against the clock

A mother apparently gave birth while buried under under a five-storey building that had been flattened by a powerful earthquake in northwest Syria.

The newborn girl was found in the debris with her umbilical cord still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was found dead, rescuers said.

Search teams discovered the crying baby girl and took her to a children’s hospital in the town of Afrin, in Aleppo province, where she is now receiving treatment, relatives and a doctor said.

The rest of the family did not survive.

The baby girl was the only surviving member of her immediate family. Credit: AP

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, Dr Hani Maarouf said.

Abu Hadiya must have been conscious during the birth and must have died soon after, he added.

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.

Dr Maarouf said the baby weighed 7lbs 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.

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.0

Rescue teams are engaged in a frantic race to find more survivors and help the injured as the death toll from the devastating earthquake, which struck Turkey and Syria on Monday, passed 7,700.

Turkey's disaster management agency said more than 24,400 emergency personnel were now on the ground, while teams of rescue workers from nearly 30 countries have been sent to Turkey or Syria.

However, officials have warned that more is needed to help search the vast area affected by Monday's earthquake.

As promises of help flooded in, Turkey said it would only allow vehicles carrying aid to enter the worst-hit provinces of Kahramanmaras, Adiyaman and Hatay in order to speed the effort.

A map shows the earthquakes' epicentres. Credit: PA Graphic

The United Nations (UN) said it was "exploring all avenues" to get supplies to rebel-held northwestern Syria, where millions live in extreme poverty and rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

Attempts to reach survivors overnight on Monday were impeded by below freezing temperatures and close to 200 aftershocks. Authorities fear the death toll will keep climbing.

Nurgul Atay said she could hear her mother’s voice beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the Turkish city of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, but that her and others’ efforts to get into the ruins had been futile without any heavy equipment to help.

“If only we could lift the concrete slab we’d be able to reach her,” she said. “My mother is 70-years-old, she won’t be able to withstand this for long.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said three British nationals are among the thousands feared missing.

Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Cleverly said: "As of this morning, we know that three British nationals are missing and the Foreign Office’s Crisis Response Hub is working to support the at least 35 British nationals who have been directly affected by these earthquakes.

"We assess that the likelihood of large-scale British casualties remains low."

Emergency teams search in the rubble for people in a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey. Credit: AP

Such is the devastation, one student living in north-east England told ITV News that 16 of his relatives had died in the earthquakes.

Additionally, the goalkeeper of a second division Turkish club, Ahmet Eyup Turkaslan died in a building collapse.

Former Newcastle forward Christian Atsu, who now plays in Turkey for Hatayspor, was pulled alive from the rubble of a building he was in.

The tremors from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which was centred about 60 miles from the Syrian border, just north of the city of Gaziantep, were felt as far away as Cairo in Egypt.

Less than ten hours later, at about 1.30pm local time, a new, 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit around 80 miles from the first epicentre.

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Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 200 miles to the northeast - roughly as far apart as the distance between Manchester and London.

The quake affected rebel-held areas of Syria, already devastated by an 11-year civil war, which are home to millions of displaced people living in decrepit conditions.

Syria's hospitals have been "overwhelmed with patients filling the hallways", according to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

A child sits on a hospital gurney after the devastating earthquake. Credit: SAMS

Mosques around northwest Syria were opened up as shelters for people unable to return to damaged homes amid freezing temperatures.

The region has been under siege for years, enduring frequent Russian and government airstrikes, and depends on aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

In fact, on Tuesday UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly criticised the Syrian regime for the “completely unacceptable bombing” of an opposition-held area in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

“Sadly it speaks to a long-standing pattern of behaviour by the Assad regime, a regime that we condemn," he said.

'Come on Haroun': The moment Syria Civil Defence rescuers free a boy trapped under rubble

This video contains distressing images

Raed Salah, the head of the White Helmets, the emergency organisation in Syria's opposition areas, said whole neighbourhoods collapsed in some areas.

Elsewhere, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of his country's 85 million strong population were affected in some way, declaring a state of emergency in ten provinces in order to manage the response. Mr Erdogan also imposed seven days of national mourning.

More than 8,000 people have so far been pulled from the debris in Turkey alone, and some 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, according to the country's Vice President, Fuat Oktay.

Specialist rescue workers from the UK have been despatched to Turkey

Turkey has large numbers of troops in the border region with Syria and has tasked its military to aid in the rescue efforts, including setting up tents for the homeless and a field hospital in Hatay province.

Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar, said a humanitarian aid brigade based in Ankara and eight military search and rescue teams had also been deployed.

At least 20 aftershocks were reported as hampering search and rescue efforts and causing the collapse of already damaged buildings, while a famous second-century historic castle, in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, was badly damaged.

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On Tuesday, the UK sent a team of 77 search-and-rescue specialists, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and four specially trained dogs, to Turkey.

King Charles told President Erdogan that his “thoughts and special prayers” are with all those affected by the earthquakes.

“I can only begin to imagine the scale of suffering and loss as a result of these dreadful tragedies and I particularly wanted to convey our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to the families of all those who have lost their loved ones," he said.

The United States announced it was coordinating immediate assistance to NATO-member Turkey, including teams to support search and rescue efforts. US-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria.

Egypt, Ukraine, Russia, Israel and Japan are among the other countries who have pledged aid, personnel and equipment to help rescue efforts.

A collapsed building in Diyarbakir province. Credit: EBU

Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Monday's earthquake occurred along the East Anatolian Fault which was largely inactive during the 20th century, but was responsible for devastating earthquakes in 1822 and 1872, according to Dr Roger Musson, an honorary research associate at the British Geological Survey.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the death toll from the powerful earthquake could reach as high as 10,000 people.

Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at University College London, said the earthquake was "by far the largest quake ever recorded in this region".