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Baby found safe in collapsed house hours after massive quake

Rescue workers carry a baby rescued from a collapsed house in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, at 3:44 a.m. on April 15, 2016. (Mainichi)

MASHIKI, Kumamoto -- At around 3:40 a.m. on April 15, over six hours after a massive earthquake hit this town, a voice called out, "She's out!" Applause and sighs of relief were heard in the dark as an 8-month-old girl was retrieved safely from a collapsed two-story wooden house.

    The first floor of the home was crushed, and the second floor tilted significantly. According to the infant's family, the girl had been sleeping alone in a first-floor bedroom, while her grandfather and grandmother, both 60, her 33-year-old mother, and her 4-year-old brother were either in the living room or the kitchen on the same floor. They tried to rescue the baby from the bedroom, but the entire first floor collapsed, giving them no choice but to escape outside.

    The girl's mother and others were able to touch the girl's hand through a gap in the rubble of the first floor, but could not see her. When they called out her name, they heard her cry.

    Rescue workers, including police, firefighters and Self-Defense Force personnel, took on the mission of rescuing the baby as large aftershocks continued to rock the town, creating the possibility of further damage.

    Placing a five-minute limit on each of their search missions, two firefighters from the Kumamoto Higashi Fire Station went into gaps in the rubble multiple times to try to determine the girl's location. Unable to spot her, they tracked her down by her cries. Rescue workers then began carefully digging down from the second-floor roof. The baby was found in a pocket of space that had been created between the roof and a large wooden beam some 50 centimeters in diameter.

    According to the baby's aunt, 36, the girl's mother and her family had returned to her hometown to give birth to the baby.

    "The baby was miraculously found in a small space," the aunt said. "The house was an old Japanese-style home, with big beams and pillars. That's what saved her. I'm so glad she's safe."

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