The baby girl who gained global attention when she was born under the rubble of her destroyed home in Syria following last week’s earthquake has been given police guard in hospital amid fears she will be kidnapped.
The week-old baby, named Aya – Arabic for ‘a sign from God’ – has been at a hospital in north Syria ever since she was pulled from underneath the rubble with her umbilical cord still attached to her mother.
Aya, whose mother, father and four siblings died in the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, has been closely followed since her birth and people from around the world have been offering to help her.
But several people have shown up falsely claiming to be Aya’s relatives, prompting local policemen to guard her as she lays in an incubator.
And on Monday night, gunmen stormed the hospital where Aya is receiving care and beat the clinic’s director, Doctor Attiah, an official said today.
The week-old baby, named Aya (pictured) – Arabic for ‘a sign from God’ – has been at a hospital in north Syria ever since she was pulled from underneath the rubble with her umbilical cord still attached to her mother
Aya (pictured), whose mother, father and four siblings died in the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, has been closely followed since her birth and people from around the world have been offering to help her
The official denied reports on social media claiming that the attack was an attempt to kidnap Aya.
The official, who spoke condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the hospital’s director had suspected that a nurse who was taking pictures of Aya was planning to kidnap her and kicked him out of the hospital.
The nurse returned hours later accompanied by gunmen who beat up Dr Attiah.
Dr Attiah, who also has a baby daughter, said last week: ‘I won’t allow anyone to adopt her now. Until her distant family return, I’m treating her like one of my own.’
For now, his wife is breastfeeding Ana alongside their own daughter.
Upon arrival at the hospital, the gunmen told local police officers protecting the girl that they were going after the director for firing their friend. They said they were not interested in Aya, according to the official.
Rescue workers in Jenderis discovered Aya on Monday afternoon last week, more than 10 hours after the quake hit, as they were digging through the wreckage of the five-story apartment building where her parents lived.
Buried under the concrete, the baby still was connected by her umbilical cord to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was dead along with her husband and four other children.
The baby was rushed to the hospital in nearby Afrin, where she has been cared for since.
Aya may be able to leave the hospital as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday, according to her great-uncle, Saleh al-Badran. He said the baby’s paternal aunt, who recently gave birth and survived the quake, will raise her.
Abu Hadiya probably gave birth to the girl and then died a few hours before they were discovered, said Dr. Hani Maarouf at Cihan Hospital in Afrin.
‘We named her Aya, so we could stop calling her a new-born baby,’ said Maarouf. Her condition is improving by the day and there was no damage to her spine, as initially feared, he said.
A rescuer carries a baby girl – Aya – after pulling her from the rubble caused by an earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey in the town of Jinderis, Syria, on Tuesday February 7
Locals and non-governmental organizations continue search and rescue efforts in Jindires district after north-western Syria was hit by 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes centered in Turkiye, in Aleppo, Syria on February 14
Locals and non-governmental organizations continue search and rescue efforts in Jindires district after the area was hit by an earthquake
An aerial view of collapsed buildings after the powerful twin earthquakes hit Turkiye’s Kahramanmaras on February 13
A woman is rescued from the rubble of a building some 203 hours after last week’s devastating earthquake, in Hatay, Turkey, on February 14
The devastating quake followed by a series of tremors that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria reduced many of the towns and cities inhabited by millions to fragments of concrete and twisted metal. More than 35,000 people were killed, a toll expected to rise considerably as search teams find more bodies.
The earthquake destroyed dozens of housing units in the town of Jinderis, where Aya’s family had been living since 2018.
Aya’s father, Abdullah Turki Mleihan, was 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 al-Badran, an uncle of Aya’s father.
Meanwhile, aid agencies and government today stepped up a scramble to send help to parts of Turkey and Syria devastated by the earthquake.
But a week after the disaster many complained they still were struggling to meet basic needs, like finding shelter from the bitter cold.
The situation was particularly desperate in Syria, where a 12-year civil war has complicated relief efforts and meant days of wrangling over how to even move aid into the country, let alone distribute it.
Some people there who lost their homes said they have received nothing. In Turkey, meanwhile, several families crowded into tents meant for just one.
On Monday, the United Nations announced a deal with Damascus to deliver U.N. aid to through two more border crossings from Turkey to rebel-held areas of northwest Syria – but the needs remain enormous.
Ahmed Ismail Suleiman set up a shelter of blankets outside his damaged house in the town of Jinderis, one of the worst-hit communities in northwest Syria. He is afraid to move his family back into a house that might not be structurally sound – but that he cannot afford to repair.
So, for now 18 family members sleep outside in the small makeshift tent.
‘We sit but can’t sleep lying down here,’ he said. ‘We are waiting for a proper tent.’
Mahmoud Haffar, head of local council in Jinderis, said that locals have been able to scrounge up about 2,500 tents so far, but some 1,500 families still remain without shelter – as nighttime temperatures fall to around minus 4 degrees Celsius (26 degrees Fahrenheit).
26-year-old Emine Akgul is rescued from under rubble 201 hours after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkiye including Hatay on February 14
Men carry belongings at the site of a damaged building, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on February 14
A search-and-rescue dog and his master search the rubble of collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, on February 14
While tents have been in short supply, one women said the town has a surplus of donated bread and water.
To the southwest, in government-held Latakia, Raeefa Breemo said only those packing into shelters seem to be getting aid.
‘We need to eat, we need to drink, we need to survive. Our jobs, our lives, everything have stopped,’ Breemo said.
Offers of help – from rescue crews to generators to medical equipment – have come from around the world, but the needs remain immense after the magnitude 7.8 quake and powerful aftershocks toppled or damaged tens of thousands of buildings, destroyed roads and closed airports for a time.
The quake affected 10 provinces in Turkey that are home to some 13.5 million people, as well as a large area in northwest Syria that is home to millions.
Much of the water system in the quake-hit region was not working, and Turkey’s health minister said samples taken from dozens of points of the water system showed the water was unsuitable to drink.
In Adiyaman, Turkey, on Sunday, Mehmet Arslan listed all the things he needed: water, electricity and a bigger tent. He said seven people were sleeping in one for the moment.
‘We’re also battling the cold. … What will we do, I don’t know,’ said the 28-year-old. ‘We’ve got small children. We can handle it but the small children, they’re 1-year-old, 2-years-old, newborns. What do we do with them?’
While a first Saudi aid plane, carrying 35 tons of food, landed in Syrian government-held Aleppo on Tuesday, getting aid to the country’s rebel-held Idlib has been especially complicated.
Until now, the U.N. has only been allowed to deliver aid to the area through a single border crossing with Turkey, or via government territory, which presents its own logistical and political challenges.
The United Nations said Monday that President Bashar Assad of Syria had agreed to open two new crossing points from Turkey to his country’s rebel-held northwest.
The crossings at Bab al-Salameh and Al Raée are to be opened for an initial period of three months.
Russia bristled at suggestions that the opening might be made permanent, and its Foreign Ministry accused the West of trying to get aid ‘exclusively’ to areas not controlled by the Syrian government.
‘We are on day nine and we are still hearing the question of when will aid get in. We heard yesterday that two crossings may be opened,’ said Haffar, of local council in Jenderis. ‘We hope there is more international interaction and that international aid comes to alleviate the crisis.’
‘But so far no aid has come,’ he said.
On Tuesday, 14 Syrian-American doctors crossed into Syria in order to help treat victims of the quake, Mazen Alloush, a border official said. Alloush posted several photos of the team including one of members standing in front of a clinic run by the Syrian American Medical Society that is active in Syria’s rebel-held northwest.
Meanwhile, the death toll eclipsed 35,500 – nearly 32,000 of those in Turkey. In Syria, the toll in the northwestern rebel-held region has passed 2,200, according to the rescue group known as the White Helmets. Over 1,400 people have died in government-held areas, according to the Syrian Health Ministry.
The toll is nearly certain to rise as search teams turn up more bodies – and the window for finding survivors was closing.
More than 200 hours after the quake struck, teacher Emine Akgul was pulled from an apartment building in Antakya by a mining search and rescue team, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Rescuers carry the body of a victim at the site of a collapsed building, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, on Tuesday
An aerial view of collapsed buildings after the powerful twin earthquakes hit Turkiye’s Adiyaman on February 14
An aerial view of collapsed buildings after the powerful twin earthquakes hit Turkiye’s Adiyaman on February 14
Grieving relatives embrace as rescuers work to extract the bodies of a father and his son from under the rubble in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Hatay, Turkey, on February 14
In Adiyaman province, rescuers reached 18-year-old Muhammed Cafer Cetin, and medics gave him an IV with fluids before attempting a dangerous extraction from a building that crumbled further as rescuers were working. Medics fitted him with a neck brace and he was carted away on a stretcher with an oxygen mask, Turkish TV showed.
Two others were rescued from a destroyed building in central Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter. Dozens of rescuers and Turkish soldiers at the site hugged and clapped after the rescues including that of Muhammed Enes, 17, who was seen wrapped in a thermal blanket and carried on a stretcher to an ambulance in images shown by broadcaster Haberturk.
Rescuers then asked for quiet, and one shouted ‘Can anyone hear me?’ in the frenzied hunt for more survivors.
Many in Turkey have blamed faulty construction for the vast devastation, and authorities continued targeting contractors allegedly linked with buildings that collapsed. Turkey has introduced construction codes that meet earthquake-engineering standards, but experts say the codes are rarely enforced.