For Syrians devastated by civil conflict, the earthquake aftermath is ‘a disaster in a disaster’

Abu Dhabi, UAE

For most of the Syrian victims of the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday, that is simply the most recent in a decade-long collection of tragedies.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck within the early hours, killing greater than 5,000 folks within the two nations and leaving 1000’s extra injured. It was the strongest earthquake recorded in Turkey in 84 years.

In Syria, a lot of the casualties have been within the northwest of the nation, predominantly within the cities of Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and Tartus, in keeping with the state information company, SANA.

Drone footage exhibits huge destruction after earthquake

This area was already struggling to rebuild important infrastructure closely broken by continuous aerial bombardment through the nation’s civil conflict, which the United Nations estimates to have claimed 300,000 lives since 2011.

It’s a “crisis in the crisis,” El-Mostafa Benlamlih, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, informed CNN’s Christina Macfarlane on Monday.

“The infrastructure has been crippled by the situation, the war and so on,” he mentioned. “Those cities are ghost cities… Many people are very scared. They don’t want to go back to their houses. If we can call them houses in these cases. They are ruins sometimes.”

Turkey collapse

Dramatic video captures second constructing collapses in Turkey

Volunteer rescue group Syria Civil Defense, generally often called the White Helmets, tweeted that lots of of households have been beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings within the northwest of the nation.

More than 900 folks have died within the space, it mentioned, including that the quantity is anticipated to rise.

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Khalil Ashawi, a photojournalist based mostly within the city of Jindiris in Syria’s northwestern Allepo governorate, informed CNN that he hadn’t witnessed scenes as “disastrous” as Monday’s within the ten years he spent overlaying the conflict there.

A Syrian man cries over the body of his lifeless child in the rebel-held town of Jindiris on Tuesday.

“In all the years I’ve covered war here, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he mentioned. “It’s a disaster. Paramedics and fire fighters are trying to help but unfortunately there is too much for them to deal with. They can’t handle it all.”

His mother and father, who reside within the Turkish metropolis of Antakya, are lacking, he mentioned. That metropolis too suffered vital injury.

The United Nations mentioned on Tuesday that its cross-border help into Syria had been quickly disrupted as a result of injury attributable to the earthquake.

Assistance was hampered as a result of “road challenges – particularly the road from Gaziantep to our transshipment hub in Hatay,” Madevi Sun-Suon, spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) informed CNN.

The Damascus-based Syrian Arab Red Crescent mentioned on Tuesday that it doesn’t have the aptitude to cope with the devastation left by the earthquake.

HATAY, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 07: Smoke billows from the Iskenderun Port as rescue workers work at the scene of a collapsed building on February 07, 2023 in Iskenderun, Turkey. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of Monday, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and were felt in nearby countries.  (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

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“We were in every location after the earthquake, but we do not have the equipment, we do not have heavy machinery,” its president Khaled Hboubati mentioned at a information convention in Damascus. “The death toll will increase… there are buildings still collapsing in Aleppo and Latakia,” mentioned Hboubati.

Half of northwestern Syria’s 4.6 million inhabitants have been compelled out of their houses by the battle, with 1.7 million now dwelling in tents and refugee camps within the area, in keeping with the United Nations’ youngsters’s company, UNICEF. Last 12 months, the company reported that 3.3 million Syrians within the space have been meals insecure.

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Several elements of northwestern Syria, together with Idlib, are nonetheless managed by anti-government rebels.

During the early phases of the conflict, Aleppo and Idlib have been geographically and economically important to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad as hubs for commerce and commerce. But from 2012 onward, Idlib, which has a border with Turkey and is at present held by Turkish-backed rebels, turned the goal of routine aerial bombardment from Syria’s navy alliance with Russia.

In 2019, the Syrian military launched a recent offensive on the province, with aerial assist from the Russian navy, displacing round one million folks from their houses. According to Human Rights Watch, greater than a thousand civilians have been estimated to have been killed through the 11-month navy operation. A ceasefire was introduced in March 2020 however bombardment has since resumed.

Many of the households that turned victims of these bombing campaigns confronted additional distress on Monday.

“One of my colleagues, who I’ve worked with for more than five years, was killed about two years ago in Russian airstrikes. I found out today that his whole family, his wife and kids, all passed away today when their building collapsed,” mentioned Dr. Mostafa Edo, nation director for the US-based NGO MedGlobal, who lives in Idlib.

He informed CNN that hospitals within the metropolis are overwhelmed and ill-equipped, missing provides like orthopedic plates to deal with fractures. Hospitals are additionally affected by energy outages. Having beforehand relied on energy from Turkey, they now resort to energy turbines for which gasoline is briefly provide.

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Civil defense workers and residents search through the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Harem near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria, on Monday.

“Survivors (are) sleeping on the streets in freezing cold,” he mentioned.

Many concern the consequences of the earthquake will hit these dwelling in rebel-held areas the toughest, because the regime has historically used isolation to cripple native infrastructure.

Volunteer rescue group the Syria Civil Defense, generally often called the White Helmets, declared the earthquake space a catastrophe zone on Monday and referred to as on the worldwide neighborhood to help within the rescue and reduction effort and put strain on the Syrian regime and Russia “to ensure there is no bombing of the affected areas.”

Tanya Evans, the International Rescue Committee’s Syria Country Director, described the earthquake in a press release as “yet another devastating blow to so many vulnerable populations already struggling after years of conflict.”

She warned that 1000’s of individuals are uncovered as temperatures plummet beneath zero. “Many in northwest Syria have been displaced up to 20 times,” she mentioned, “and with health facilities strained beyond capacity, even before this tragedy many did not have access to the health care they critically need.”

With further reporting by Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi.

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