Three tiny, dust-covered toes, poking through the broken iron rods in a mound of rubble offered a glimmer of hope to Syrian rescuers on Monday as they raced to rescue a young boy in the village of Qatma.
Ahmed, a child of about four or five years old, was trapped by a giant, concrete slab as his home pancaked and crumbled when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in the early hours of Monday morning as he slept in his bed.
In a dramatic video released by the Syrian White Helmets, rescuers can be seen shouting urgent instructions to each other over the hammering of a pneumatic drill as they try to extract him from his terrifyingly cramped prison under precarious debris. Against the odds, they pull the boy free.
Ahmed, a displaced child, was rescued from the ruins of his home in the village of Qatma, north of #Aleppo, #Syria. The family's house was destroyed by today's devastating #earthquake. pic.twitter.com/Ec4pommcLc
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) February 6, 2023
He is visibly in pain, scratched and caked in mud and blood, letting out a feeble cry as he cradled by a rescue worker and carried to safety. Ahmed is later seen on a stretcher, fitted with an oxygen mask as an ambulance rushes him to hospital. A medic by his side quietly comforts him with the word “yalla”, or “come on.”
Little is known about Ahmed or his family, beyond reports that his family had already been displaced by Syria’s brutal war to the village of Qatma, north of Aleppo.
The story of his miraculous rescue highlights the plight of millions of Syrians now hit by the twin catastrophes of years of conflict and a sudden natural disaster.
Tragically, many children could not be saved from the devastation of the worst earthquake to hit the Turkish-Syrian border in a century.
In another heartbreaking video from Jindiris, northern Syria, a father is seen dropping to his knees and sobbing over the body of his baby son, kissing his forehead as bystanders try to offer comfort.
In the chaotic aftermath of the disaster, trapped victims began using social media to plead for help, prompting Kagan Sarikaya, a Turkish political scientist, to collect the information and create a map of their location, reported the Middle East Eye.
For some families, social media posts may have saved their lives.
“Help, we are under the rubble, my mother and my brother,” said one man in Twitter post, pinpointing his address. As the post went viral, the family was rescued by neighbours.