Reunion with miracle baby pulled from rubble one year after deadly Turkey earthquake

As an earthquake devastated Turkey, Muhammed was trapped under the rubble in the arms of his dead father. One year on, ITV News's Emma Murphy meets him with the woman who helped save his life

It had been a week filled with tragedy, where the dead lay on the streets or beneath their homes and the living struggled to comprehend what they had survived and all they had lost.Day after day we had seen bodies being pulled from beneath the rubble as the death toll mounted.

In Antakya, the worst hit area, five days on, someone told us there was a rescue underway, maybe of a baby and there might be signs of life.

It seemed impossible, after five freezing cold days, four even colder nights but myself, cameraman Sean Swan and news editor Lutfi Abu-Aun went anyway.

There was chaos around what was left of the house as rescuers tried to find a channel under it. Every now and again there were shouts for silence and they tried to listen to whoever was far beneath the rubble.

As we waited it became clear there was indeed a baby beneath and it was still alive.

Volunteer Tuba Tanrikulu and another rescuer holding baby Muhammed after he's pulled from the rubble. Credit: ITV News

One of the team had seen the child’s eyelashes flutter, they thought the man cradling the child was dead but had hope for the baby.

As the minutes then hours passed the pressure on the teams grew. These were the moments of greatest peril, how to free the child without the rubble collapsing upon it.

It felt like an eternity. At one point I realised I hadn’t taken a breath for ages such was the tension.

It was like waiting for the birth of a child. In reality we were watching the rebirth of one.

A volunteer nurse tried to clear people back as she moved forward with an oxygen tank and another rescue worker pushed further beneath the debris.

Rescuers look for baby Muhammed. Credit: ITV News

Finally, to huge cheers, a tiny bundle in a dirty blue top emerged into the light.

The nurse ran with him to the ambulance and the door was closed. Within seconds they were gone.

All we knew at that point was that at least the tiny baby was alive and finally getting care.

After so much death the rescue team were barely able to believe they had actually found life.

They were hugging each other, weeping, laughing, one fell to the ground his arms around a man thought to be the child’s uncle.

Before long they were also gone, there were too many places search to savour this rare moment of joy.

No-one seemed to know who the child was, someone thought a boy, maybe called Muhammed, another thought the mother and father were Syrian refugees, a neighbour said he thought they were dead. Someone else said the child was actually a girl.

Over the months, what happened to the child we had started calling Baby Muhammed would occupy my thoughts. Had he survived or had he died from injuries we didn’t see that day?

We tried to trace him but with no luck. The Health Ministry didn’t know who he was nor the governor's office, NGOs or local journalists.

Two months later we decided to go back to the street hoping to find someone, anyone who might know the family.

When we traced our way back there was no street. The whole area had been cleared, the neighbourhood and all the residents were gone.

Phone numbers of survivors spray painted on walls brought nothing. No-one knew what had become of the baby. All chance of finding him seemed to have been swept away with the rubble.

In September we tried again, piecing together ambulance number plates from photos, rescue team call signs and asking a friend who worked in the health ministry if she could help.

She had been involved in organising rescue teams to head to the South but they were from across Turkey and the chances of them knowing anything about the child after he was rescued was minimal. Incredibly, somehow she struck gold.

Volunteer Tuba (L) plays with Muhammed one year after helping with his rescue. Credit: ITV News

She found the team and one had a number for a volunteer she thought may have stayed in touch with the family.

We called the number and finally found our link to Baby Muhammed.

Tuba Tanrikulu, was the volunteer nurse who took the baby into the ambulance. We wanted to be sure we had the right child so sent videos.

Yes she confirmed, that baby was Muhammed and he was alive and well.

His plight had touched her so deeply she had stayed in touch with his family. Infact until they had been found she wanted to adopt him herself.

Emma Murphy is reunited with Baby Muhammed. Credit: ITV News

So a year on, we travelled back to Hatay to finally meet Baby Muhammed and with Tuba who had not seen the little boy since the day she carried him to hospital, kissing him all the way so he knew he was surrounded by life not death.

On our way to see him Tuba recounted clearing the dust from his eyes, nose and mouth and wept at the prospect of finally holding him once more.

In a flat not far from the ruins from which he was rescued she was able to cuddle him once more, as his family embraced her with a love and thanks that words do not do justice to.

Muhammed is 15 months old now, a beautiful, chubby little boy being brought up by his grandparents and aunts.

He is Syrian and his parents, who fled their homes to escape the war, died in the place they thought they were safe.

He will never know them and they will never know how many people willed their child to live when he got a second chance at life.

Seeing his rescue was one of the most moving, humbling experiences of my life. Finally meeting him is one of the most joyous.

Fare you well baby Muhammed, may your hardest times be behind you and may you always sleep safe in a warm bed, secure, surrounded by love.

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