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Syria newborn pulled alive from quake rubble

The baby is the sole survivor of her immediate family, the rest of whom were all killed when a 7.8-magnitude quake struck Syria, flattening the family home
— Jindayris (Syria) (AFP)

Extended family members pulled a newborn baby alive from the rubble of a home in northern Syria, after finding her still tied by her umbilical cord to her mother, who died in Monday's massive quake, a relative said.

The infant is the sole survivor of her immediate family, the rest of whom were all killed when the 7.8-magnitude quake that struck Syria and neighbouring Turkey flattened the family home in the rebel-held town of Jindayris, Khalil al-Suwadi said.

"We heard a voice while we were digging," Suwadi told AFP Tuesday.

"We cleared the dust and found the baby with the umbilical cord (intact) so we cut it and my cousin took her to hospital."

Video of the rescue went viral on social media.

The footage shows a man sprinting from the rubble of a collapsed four-storey building clutching a tiny baby covered in dust.

A second man runs towards the first carrying a blanket to try to warm the newborn in the sub-zero temperatures while a third screams for a car to take her to hospital.

A Syrian boy watches as an excavator digs the rubble of the house in which the newborn baby was found

The baby was taken for treatment in the nearby town of Afrin, while family members spent the next several hours recovering the bodies of her father Abdullah, mother Afraa, four siblings and an aunt.

Their bodies were laid out on the floor of an adjacent relative's home ahead of a joint funeral that was held on Tuesday.

In the dimly lit room, Suwadi stared at the lifeless corpses and listed their names.

"We are displaced from (the government-held eastern city of) Deir Ezzor. Abdullah is my cousin and I am married to his sister," he said.

- 'Time is running out' -

The family home was one of around 50 in Jindayris that were flattened by the quake, an AFP correspondent reported.

Across Syria, more than 1,600 people were killed, in addition to the more than 3,400 killed in Turkey, authorities said.

The baby is checked by Doctor Hani Maaruf at a clinic in the Syrian city of Afrin

Rebel-held towns and cities accounted for some 800 of the dead.

Inside an incubator in the hospital in Afrin, the newborn was hooked to an intravenous drip, her body scarred, and a bandage wrapped around her left fist.

Her forehead and fingers were still blue from the biting cold as paediatrician Hani Maarouf monitored her vitals.

"She is now stable," Maarouf said but noted that she had arrived in bad condition.

"She had several bruises and lacerations over all her body," he told AFP.

"She also arrived with hypothermia because of the harsh cold. We had to warm her up and administer calcium."

Jindayris was seized by Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies in a 2018 offensive that drove Kurdish forces from the Afrin region.

Cut off from government-held territory, the region depends heavily on aid from Turkey and lacks the expertise or manpower to mount an effective emergency response on its own.

Monday's earthquake caused extensive damage in residential areas of the rebel-held Syrian town of Jindayris

With Turkish NGOs preoccupied with the rescue effort across the border, the search for survivors in Syrian towns like Jindayris has been delayed.

According to the White Helmets rescue group, which operates in rebel-held areas of Syria, more than 210 buildings have been flattened in those areas.

Another 520 were partially destroyed, while thousands more were damaged, it said.

"We appeal to all humanitarian organisations and international bodies to provide material support and assistance," the White Helmets said on Twitter.

"Time is running out. Hundreds still trapped under the rubble. Every second could mean saving a life."

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