Baby Afraa and her adoptive father Khalil al-Sawadi PA
turkey-syria earthquake

Baby born under rubble of Syrian quake happy and healthy six months on

Afraa survived but her parents and four siblings were killed in their home in the northern town of Jinderis.

A BABY GIRL who was born under the rubble of her family home destroyed by the deadly earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria six months ago is in good health, loves her adopted family and likes to smile even to strangers.

Afraa survived 10 hours under the rubble after the earthquake crushed to death her parents and four siblings in the northern Syrian town of Jinderis.

When she was found, her umbilical cord was still connected to her mother.

Her story captivated the world at the time, and people from all over offered to adopt her.

After spending days at a hospital in north Syria, Afraa was discharged into the care of her paternal aunt and her husband, who adopted her and are raising her along with their five daughters and two sons.

A DNA test was conducted to make sure the girl and her aunt are biologically related, her adopted father, Khalil al-Sawadi, said.

Now, baby Afraa is enjoying herself, swinging on a red swing hanging from the ceiling while al-Sawadi pushes her back and forth.

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“This girl is my daughter,” he said. “She is exactly the same as my children.”

Al-Sawadi said he spends the day at an apartment he rents but at night the family goes to a tent settlement to spend the night, as his children are still traumatised by the earthquake which killed more than 50,000 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

According to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 4,500 deaths and 10,400 injuries were reported in north-west Syria due to the earthquakes. It estimated that 43% of the injured are women and girls while 20% of the injured are children aged five to 14.

The devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck in the early hours of 6 February, followed by multiple aftershocks. Among the hardest hit areas was rebel-held north-western Syria that is home to some 4.5 million people, many of whom have been displaced by the country’s 12-year conflict that has killed half a million.

When Afraa grows up, Al-Sawadi says, he will tell her the story of how she was rescued and how her parents and siblings were killed in the devastating earthquake.

A day after the baby arrived at the hospital, officials there named her Aya – Arabic for “a sign from God”. After her aunt’s family adopted her, she was given a new name, Afraa, after her late mother.

Days after Afraa was born, her adopted mother also gave birth to a daughter, Attaa. Since then she has been breastfeeding both babies, al-Sawadi said.

He said he has received several offers to live abroad, but he has refused because he wants to stay in Syria, where Afraa’s parents lived and were killed.

“We are very happy with her, because she reminds us of her parents and siblings,” al-Sawadi said. “She looks very much like her father and her sister Nawara.”

Press Association
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