A Syrian newborn baby who was found with her umbilical cord still attached beneath the rubble of the deadly earthquake that hit southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria earlier this month has been adopted.
The little girl was the sole survivor of her family after the earthquake destroyed their apartment complex in the northern town of Jinderis in the Aleppo province on Feb. 6. Rescue workers dug for 10 hours in the wreckage and discovered the infant alive, with the umbilical cord still attached to her deceased mother.
After the baby was adopted by her paternal aunt and uncle and discharged from the hospital on Feb. 18, the couple renamed her Afraa in honor of her late mother, The Associated Press reports.
"She is one of my children now. I will not differentiate between her and my children," Khalil al Sawadi, the baby girl's uncle and cousin to one of her parents, told AP. "She will be dearer than my children because she will keep the memory alive of her father, mother and siblings."
Sawadi is one of the rescuers who found the little girl and took her to the hospital. After finding the baby, al Sawadi cut the umbilical cord with a razor blade and first took her to a nearby hospital alongside another cousin.
The relatives visited baby Afraa frequently, worried that someone might kidnap her due to the international attention surrounding the infant's story. Some people had even shown up at the hospital pretending to be related to the baby.
After the hospital confirmed the baby was healthy, the baby was taken to two other hospitals, one of which was in Afrin. But both were too full. At a children's hospital, where the baby remained until last week, officials there initially named the little girl Aya, which means "a sign from God" in Arabic.
The hospital entrusted the aunt and uncle with the infant after conducting a DNA test to ensure they were truly related to the little girl, a hospital official told CP. The baby stayed at the hospital for two weeks until the paperwork for the adoption was complete.
As The Christian Post reported, it's unknown if the newborn's mother went into labor while she was stuck in the ruins. In addition to her mother, the baby girl's father, Abdullah, and four siblings all died.
In a statement earlier this month to Agence France-Press, Hani Maarouf, a pediatrician at the Afrin-based clinic where the baby was first brought to, reported that the little girl was initially in bad health but now is now in a stable condition.
"She had several bruises and lacerations all over her body," Maarouf said. "She also arrived with hypothermia because of the harsh cold. We had to warm her up and administer calcium."
The baby's uncle told AFP that he and the rescuers heard a voice while digging through the wreckage. Video footage of the baby being recovered shows a man holding a baby covered in dust in his arms, with another man giving him a blanket to warm the infant.
In a separate statement to AP, Maarouf said that the newborn weighed roughly 7 pounds and was carried nearly to term.
"Our only concern is the bruise on her back, and we have to see whether there is any problem with her spinal cord," he said.
On Friday, the country's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) reported that the latest death toll in Turkey and Syria has passed 50,000. In Turkey, 44,218 people died as a result of the disaster, while the death toll in Syria was 5,914.
The earthquake that struck the region on Feb. 6 measured a magnitude of 7.6.