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 has been taken to Türkiye for treatment.
Local officials told the AFP news agency on Thursday that Sham Sheikh Mohammed, who may have to have her legs amputated, and her brother Omar, 15, crossed from opposition-held northwest Syria at the Bab al Hawa border post.
They were the first of those rescued from the rubble of the February 6 quakes to be given authorisation to enter Türkiye for treatment from opposition-run areas.
The powerful twin quakes killed nearly 49,000 people across Türkiye and parts of Syria.
Video footage of Sham being rescued went viral, and the White Helmets rescue group 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 starts with a 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 Türkiye 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 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 Idlib, told AFP that her condition “requires specialised treatment that is not available” in the region.
In Damascus, an official said on Thursday that the regime 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.