Disasters & Accidents

Long waits in the cold, waning hope in Syria three days after quakes

Melkis, Syria/Beirut, Feb 8 (EFE).- In the village of Melkis, in opposition-controlled northwestern Syria, several families wait around a makeshift fire next to the buildings that were destroyed by the earthquakes, waiting and hoping for rescue teams to find their missing loved ones.

Three days after the first quake, hopes of finding survivors are fading, but many are still braving the freezing winter cold as best they can to be the first to hear the news – good or bad – that continues to emerge from the rubble.

In Melkis, and other opposition-controlled areas of the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo that have been heavily hit by the catastrophe, search operations are still ongoing with the participation of locals and rescuers from the so-called White Helmets, who estimate that “hundreds” of people remain buried.

In other places such as the town of Harem, in Idlib, the work is being led by residents, volunteers and fighters from local armed groups.

The earthquakes have also left tens of thousands of families homeless, who for the past three nights have been surviving the frigid temperatures in their cars, in the open or in a series of shelters.

According to data released on Wednesday by the official Syrian news agency SANA, more than 293,000 people in government-controlled areas had to leave their homes to seek refuge in 180 shelters that have been set up so far.

In the city of Aleppo, capital of the homonymous province and a city currently in the hands of Damascus, Almira (not her real name) has spent every night since the quake inside a vehicle.

“Every now and then, someone says another bigger one is on the way and we don’t know what to do beyond going to the church next to our house (…) or, when it’s very crowded, to another area where people park cars in a row and everyone sits inside,” she told Efe.

Last night, she and the rest of the occupants of her vehicle could feel two new aftershocks. “We haven’t slept for two days and we all have the flu because of the cold,” Almira lamented.

She claims that only churches and mosques are handing out aid in Aleppo, and that many residents who choose to camp in cars for fear of new landslides do so in the parking lots of the city’s schools.

About 20 schools have also stayed open to accommodate the residents of the city whose houses have either collapsed or suffered structural damage.

So far, more than 2,600 dead and nearly 5,000 wounded have been counted in Syria, which is heading into its twelfth year of civil war. EFE


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