Hope, heartbreak as children pulled from rubble in Turkey, Syria

Millions of children and their families have been impacted by the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

Mesut Hancer holds the hand of his 15-year-old daughter Irmak in Kahramanmaras
Mesut Hancer holds the hand of his 15-year-old daughter who died trapped under the rubble in Kahramanmaras, Turkey [Adem Altan/AFP]

A photograph of a father holding the hand of his teenage daughter who died trapped under the rubble of a flattened building in the Turkish region of Kahramanmaras conveys the scale of the suffering provoked by Monday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake and its aftershocks.

Sitting amid the rubble, Mesut Hancer held on to his 15-year-old daughter’s hand which was all that showed from under the slabs of concrete piled above her lifeless body. Nearby, rescuers manually worked through the ruins.

It is just one of a number of harrowing images that have emerged of some of the millions of children caught in the catastrophic earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which was followed by a second magnitude 7.6 earthquake hours later and more than 100 aftershocks.

Rescue efforts are ongoing, with moments of hope in the midst of the disaster.

A one-year-old baby was found alive on Wednesday in the Turkish province of Sanliurfa after spending 53 hours trapped under a collapsed five-storey building, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.

A mother and her two-year-old daughter were rescued in Iskenderun nearly 44 hours after the first tremor hit the Hatay province, which was among the most affected.

In the southeastern Adiyaman province, a child was rescued from the rubble and, shortly after, her mother was also brought to safety.

In the city of Kahramanmaras, Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar detailed how rescuers saved a 14-year-old girl who was trapped under the rubble for more than 40 hours.

“When the rescue team took her out, the first thing that she said was, ‘Please save my father as well.’ Her father was very close to her and he was also alive. Later, during the night, her father was also pulled out from the rubble, but two of the other family members, unfortunately, could not survive,” Serdar said.

Meanwhile, in the northwestern Syrian town of Jinderis, rescuers discovered a crying infant whose mother appears to have given birth while buried underneath the rubble. The newborn’s umbilical cord was still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who had died.

The girl was brought to a children’s hospital in the town of Afrin, in the Aleppo province.

A baby girl who was born under the rubble caused by an earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey receives treatment inside an incubator at a children's hospital in the town of Afrin, Aleppo province
A baby girl who was born under the rubble in Syria [Ghaith Alsayed/AP]

In the same town, a young girl was pulled out alive from under the rubble of her home by the White Helmet rescue group.

UNICEF said the images of so many children being caught up in the disaster were “heart-wrenching”.

“That the initial earthquake happened so early in the morning, when many children were fast asleep, made it even more dangerous, and the aftershocks bring continuing risks,” Executive Director Catherine Russell said.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with the children and families affected, especially those who have lost loved ones or who have been injured. Our immediate priority is to ensure children and families affected receive the support they so desperately need.”

Damage to schools, hospitals and other medical and educational facilities will likely further impact children’s lives, the organisation said.

Children in Syria continue to face one of the most complex humanitarian situations in the world, after more than a decade of conflict and a worsening economic crisis.

Waterborne diseases, including a resurgence of cholera, leave children in an especially vulnerable condition, UNICEF said.

Source: Al Jazeera