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'It’s a miracle': 5-year-old rescued after being trapped in rubble for 48 hours in West Java quake

'It’s a miracle': 5-year-old rescued after being trapped in rubble for 48 hours in West Java quake

Azka Maulana Malik, 5, being treated at Sayang Public Hospital in Cianjur, Indonesia. On Nov 23, 2022, Azka was pulled out of the rubble of his home, 48 hours after a 5.6-magnitude quake devastated the Indonesian regency. (Photo: CNA/Nivell Rayda)

CIANJUR, Indonesia: The incessant cries can be heard from tens of metres away, echoing off the walls of Sayang Public Hospital in the quiet town of Cianjur, Indonesia.

The sedative injected into his body had worn off, and five-year-old Azka Maulana Malik, a survivor of a 5.6-magnitude quake which hit the region on Monday, was in pain.

There were barely any cuts and bruises on his skin, which made some medical workers suspect that the boy might have internal injuries. The hospital is set to run tests and examinations on Thursday (Nov 24) to determine whether this was the case.

Azka had made headlines across Indonesia for surviving more than 48 hours trapped beneath the rubble of his devastated home. When rescuers finally evacuated him, Azka was weak and dehydrated after two days without food and water.

A video of his rescue soon went viral and Azka was hailed as a miracle and symbol of hope amid a disaster which claimed the lives of more than 250 people.

The moment he was taken to Sayang Hospital, dozens of senior government officials came to see him, including Indonesia’s coordinating minister for politics, legal and security, Mohammad Mahfud Mahmodin and chief of the Indonesian Military Andika Perkasa.

Azka did not seem to care about the steady stream of dignitaries, fellow patients, medical workers and volunteers eager to meet him, including when one of them gifted him with a bicycle. He was too weak to stay awake and by the time the pain woke him up, Azka immediately asked for his mother, Eti Suryati.

“I didn’t have the heart to tell him, so I just ignored him,” Azka’s father, Muhammad Eka told CNA as he struggled to contain his tears.

Suryati was killed when their two-storey home collapsed, as was Azka’s maternal grandmother, Endah. His 14 year-old sister, Elsa Rahmawati, had broken bones when a wall collapsed on her as she was returning from school.


Eka was 200km away for work when the quake hit. Less than an hour before his house was levelled to the ground, he had a video call with Azka and Suryati, telling them how much he missed them.

Eka said he learned about the quake from media reports. He tried calling everyone who might know what had happened to his family but to no avail, as the quake with an epicentre just around 10km from his village had also disrupted power lines and cellular services.

Eka immediately rushed to Cianjur, arriving late in the evening to find his village, Rawa Cina, in ruins.

“I just froze when I saw what happened to my house,” he recounted.

There were no audible cries for help coming from underneath the piles of concrete slabs, bricks and wooden roof frames. People in his village assumed that everyone inside could not have survived.

Muhammad Eka, 48, refused to give up hope that his five year-old son Azka Maulana Malik was alive. 48 hours after a 5.6-magnitude quake hit Cianjur, Indonesia, Azka was rescued from the ruins of his home. (Photo: CNA/Nivell Rayda)

But Eka remained hopeful. Perhaps his wife and child made it out in time, he thought. Perhaps Azka was out playing with his friends or at a Koranic recital class.

His hopes were dashed the following day, when rescue workers and neighbours pulled Suryati’s lifeless body from beneath the rubble. “I just cried and cried. I’m still in shock,” he said.

But Eka had no time to grieve. His daughter, Elsa was badly injured and was taken to Sayang hospital while Azka was still missing.

“I didn’t sleep at all on (Tuesday) night. People around me said there is no chance that a child could survive such level of devastation. A part of me accepted this fact but there is a part of me that refused to give up hope,” he said.


With his mind split between caring for his injured daughter and missing son, Eka reached out to his parents who live in Bandung City, around two hours' drive from Cianjur. “They agreed to look after my daughter,” he said, adding that he requested for Elsa to be transferred to a Bandung hospital.

Suryati’s sister, Rizma Sari, who was also living with the family but was away when the quake hit, agreed to monitor efforts to find Azka while Eka made arrangements for his daughter’s hospital transfer.

“I told the rescuers (Azka) likes to watch videos or play games on his phone at his room,” Sari told CNA of Wednesday’s search efforts.

Sari watched from a distance as rescuers focused their search efforts on where Azka’s room used to be. Sure enough, the rescuers caught a glimpse of the boy in the ruins and quickly devised plans to evacuate him.

Azka was rescued at around 11.30am on Wednesday. “When they pulled him out, I immediately shouted his name ‘Azka’. I was overwhelmed with joy when I discovered that he was alive,” Sari continued.

His family believed that the quake must have thrown Azka off his bed. The bed stopped the boy from being crushed by the weight of the concrete slabs and brick walls raining down on him.

“It was a miracle,” Azka’s uncle Miftahudin told CNA. “We were prepared for the worst. We are thankful that he is alive.”

Azka’s maternal grandmother, Endah, was less fortunate. Her body was discovered two hours later in the same room barely a metre away from the boy.


Eka was over the moon with joy when news of Azka’s rescue reached him. “I just grabbed my motorbike and rushed to Cianjur all the way from Bandung. I didn’t pack. I didn’t bring clothes. I didn’t even remember to put on any shoes or sandals. I just went,” he said while showing CNA his bare feet.

The 38 year-old construction worker said he plans on having Azka transferred to Bandung once his condition stabilises. Sayang Hospital was also damaged from the quake and the influx of patients forced the five year-old boy to be treated at a makeshift tent at the hospital’s parking lot.

“I don’t think it is safe for him to be here,” Eka said, referring to the more than 100 aftershocks which have continuously jolted the region since Monday.

The hospitals in Bandung, one of the largest cities in Indonesia, might be better equipped to treat Azka, he thought. However, the main benefit of the transfer is that he can look after both Azka and his sister, he said.

With his wife and house gone, the future seems uncertain for Eka and his family.

“I have lost a lot. I lost my wife, I lost my possessions. But at least I still have my children,” he said.

Source: CNA/ni(gr)


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