In war-ravaged Idlib, devastating earthquake looks like ‘Doomsday’ | News about earthquakes

Idlib, Syria – It was well before dawn when a strong shaking jolted Muhammad Alloush out of his deep sleep.

“Our house oscillated like sea waves,” recalled the 60-year-old, an internally displaced person from the Syrian city of Homs who currently lives in Sarmada, an opposition-held town near Syria’s border with Turkey.

At 4:17 a.m. (01:17 GMT) on Monday, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria, causing widespread death and destruction.

About 2,600 people have been reported dead so far, with thousands injured as buildings collapsed in towns and cities across neighboring countries and on both sides of the frontline that separates government-held parts of war-torn Syria from opposition-held areas.

“While we were evacuating the house, it started falling apart,” Alloush, a father of eight, told Al Jazeera.

“My hand was injured by debris that fell while I was protecting my granddaughter, which delayed our exit from the house, and thus I received a series of minor injuries,” he said.

With tears in his eyes, Alloush said members of the other two families living in the same building were unable to get out in time.

“I hope my neighbors will be saved,” he added.

“The fear we witnessed today can only be described as akin to Judgment Day.”

‘Works 24 hours a day’

The devastating earthquake, whose epicenter was in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, forced survivors across the Idlib region and the northern countryside of Aleppo to seek refuge in the streets and public squares.middle icy weather conditions.

Children, women and the elderly slept under the open sky without any sources of heat to protect them from the cold, while many young men went to help rescue teams search for survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

As aftershocks continued to sow panic throughout Monday, Turkish officials said the country’s death toll had risen to at least 1,541.

In Syria, meanwhile, the total has approached 1,000, according to figures released by President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rescuers in the opposition-held northwest.

Members of the Syrian Civil Defense, or White Helmets, a rescue group operating in opposition-held parts of Syria, said the northwest region’s existing infrastructure had already been weakened by continuous bombing.

“Our teams are working around the clock to rescue those trapped under the rubble of the destroyed buildings. More than 133 buildings were completely destroyed and 272 were partially destroyed, while thousands of others are no longer structurally sound,” Ismail Abdullah, a volunteer rescuer, told Al Jazeera.

As civil protection teams and volunteers continued to search for survivors, pressure mounted on hospitals in northwest Syria, which are ill-equipped to treat the large number of injured.

dr. Osama Abu al-Ezz, field director of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian aid to Syrians, described the earthquake as catastrophic.

“In SAMS hospitals, we treated more than 550 people who were injured by debris from destroyed homes, and we received the bodies of 120 people,” he said.

Abu al-Ezz called for a concerted effort to strengthen existing capacity to treat the injured, whose numbers are expected to increase as search and rescue operations continue. Rescuers and human rights groups have also called on the international community to take action to help survivors and rescue civilians.

Sams Surgical Hospital in Bab Al-Hawa, Syria
Medical workers at the Syrian American Medical Society hospital in Bab Al-Hawa [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

“Amidst a winter storm and an unprecedented cost of living crisis, it is vitally important that Syrians are not left to face the consequences alone,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said in a statement, warning that the disaster would worsen living conditions for a population already struggles with the devastating effects of nearly 12 years of conflict.

“Millions have already been forced to flee by war in the wider region, and now many more will be displaced by the disaster.”

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