Earthquake girl Sham leaves Syria for treatment in Turkey

AFP , Friday 24 Feb 2023

A nine-year-old Syrian girl whose fate captured the tragedy, hope, and heartbreak of this month's earthquake after spending 40 hours under the rubble was taken to Turkey Thursday for treatment.

Syrian girl Sham Sheikh Mohammad, 9, who was rescued after fourty hours under the rubble of a deadly earthquake, lies on a hospital bed in the rebel-held northwestern city of Idlib, on February 17, 2023. AFP


Local officials told AFP that Sham Sheikh Mohammed, who may have to have her legs amputated, and her brother Omar, 15, crossed from rebel-held northwest Syria at the Bab al-Hawa border post.

They were the first of those rescued from the rubble of the February 6 quake to be given the authorization to enter Turkey for treatment from rebel-held areas.

The 7.8-magnitude quake killed nearly 46,000 people across Turkey and parts of Syria.

Video footage of Sham being rescued went viral, and the White Helmets rescue group that operates in rebel-held areas had called on social media for prayers that she might be spared amputation.

Like other survivors, Sham is suffering from what doctors call crush syndrome.

This occurs in limbs that were starved of blood circulation for too long and start with severe pain in the affected extremity, which can still look healthy in the early stages.

Sham's mother and sister were killed when the family's building collapsed in the town of Armanaz, in the northwestern province of Idlib. Her father and a brother also survived.

On Thursday, an AFP correspondent saw two ambulances from Turkey arrive at the Bab al-Hawa crossing to pick up the two children, who were accompanied by their father and aunt.

Sham was celebrated for her courage after humming a tune along with her White Helmets rescuers, who worked for six hours to free her from the concrete.

"Sham is in a critical condition," her father Mohammed told AFP, adding that Omar was also suffering from leg injuries.

Shadi Haj Hussein, an official from the health department in rebel-held Idlib, told AFP that her condition "requires specialized treatment that is not available" in the region.

In Damascus, an official said on Thursday that the government had "assured the transfer" of six other Syrian child survivors of the quake to the United Arab Emirates for treatment. They are also suffering from crush syndrome.

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