Sister shields sibling from dust during 36-hour wait for help after quake
By Raja Razek and Hilary Whiteman, CNN
Two children wedged between concrete in the remains of their home in northern Syria have been rescued more than 36 hours after Monday’s quake trapped their family as they slept.
“Get me out of here, I’ll do anything for you,” the older child whispers to rescuers who are seen on video squatting in the rubble of the children’s home in Besnaya-Bseineh, a small village in Haram, Syria.
“I’ll be your servant,” she adds, as a rescuer replies, “No, no.”
The girl’s name is Mariam, and she gently strokes the hair on her younger sibling’s head as they lie squashed together in what could be the remains of their bed. She’s able to move her arm enough to cover her sibling’s face, providing some protection from the dust amid the debris.
The younger child’s name is Ilaaf, according to their father — an Islamic name that means protection.
Mustafa Zuhir Al-Sayed says his wife and three children were sleeping in the early hours of Monday when the earth shook with a 7.8-magnitude quake, the biggest to hit the region in more than a century of records.
“We felt the ground shaking … and rubble began falling over our head, and we stayed two days under the rubble,” he said. “We went through, a feeling, a feeling I hope no one has to feel.”
Pinned under rubble, Al-Sayed said his family recited the Quran and prayed out loud that someone would find them.
“People heard us, and we were rescued — me, my wife and the children. Thank God, we are all alive and we thank those who rescued us,” he said.
Video shows locals cheering as Mariam and Ilaaf are carried from the rubble wrapped in blankets. The children were taken to hospital, where they’re receiving medical care.
With each hour, hope of finding other families fades in freezing temperatures that have made survival harder even for those who managed to escape the crumbled buildings.
The Al-Sayeds’ home is in Idlib governorate, a rebel-controlled area in northern Syria. At least 1,730 people have died in rebel-controlled territory, according to the Syrian Civil Defense, a humanitarian aid group more commonly known as the “White Helmets.”
The group said Tuesday the number of dead and injured is “expected to rise significantly due to the presence of hundreds of families under the rubble.”
At least 1,262 deaths have been confirmed in government-controlled parts of Syria, state-run news agency SANA reported, taking the total Syrian toll at almost 3,000.
The total number of dead from the quake across the Turkey-Syrian border is now more than 15,000 — a number that aid agencies have warned is likely to rise significantly.
Aid is slowly reaching those in need, but even before the quake, the United Nations said 70% of Syria’s population needed humanitarian assistance.
“This tragedy will have a devastating impact on many vulnerable families who struggle to provide for their loved ones on a daily basis,” the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Syria and the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The UN and humanitarian partners say they are currently focusing on immediate needs, including food, shelter, non-food items, and medicine.
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CNN’s Ruba Alhenawi contributed to this report.