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'I wish we were dead': Syria earthquake survivors left to fend for themselves with little help in sight


After the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the situation in Syria is totally different from that in Turkey, where dozens of countries and international organizations have offered rescue teams, donations and aid. 

Woman after the earthquake: "Death follows Syrians everywhere" 4:24

Idlib Province, Syria (CNN) --

Three-month-old Mohammad is alone in intensive care, his head and face covered in bandages and tubes attached to a ventilator.

He is alone in every labored breath he takes.

Neighbors found Mohammad, who lost his parents in last Monday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake, and took him to hospital in the last rebel-held territory in northwestern Syria.

In the hours after the earthquake, this hospital in Idlib received 700 patients.

The few hospitals left standing after years of shelling by the Russian and Syrian regimes were ill-equipped to deal with an emergency of this magnitude.

Medical facilities in the northwest were overwhelmed, with injuries lying in hallways and on floors.

The combined number of deaths in Turkey and Syria currently stands at more than 36,000.

The confirmed death toll in Syria is 4,574.

That number includes more than 3,160 in opposition-controlled parts of northwestern Syria, according to the Health Ministry of the Salvation Government's governing authority.

The situation in Syria is totally different from that in Turkey, where dozens of countries and international organizations have offered rescue teams, donations and aid.

The delivery of urgent supplies to earthquake-affected areas in northern Syria has been complicated by a long-running civil war between opposition forces and the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, accused of kill his own people.


Little significant international aid has reached the enclave and doctors have felt helpless.

  • Earthquake orphans in Turkey and Syria face an uncertain future

"This is the biggest disaster we've ever had," Dr. Ahmad Alaabd told CNN during a visit to the Babs Al Hawa hospital, run by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), this weekend.

"We deal with war wounds, but we've never been faced with dealing with so many casualties."

SAMS and others appealed to the international community for urgent assistance, but it only started arriving late last week: too little, too late.

Residents of a destroyed building using their bare hands to remove dirt and debris in their desperate search for their loved ones.

(Credit: Pete Langley/CNN)

“We asked for help but there was no response, especially in the critical first two or three days,” Alaabd said.

“We lost many patients due to a shortage of medical supplies.

If we had them, we could have saved more lives.”

Dozens needing complex surgeries remain in the hospital, many in intensive care.

The necessary supplies and equipment have not yet arrived.

Syrians say their cries for help during the darkest days of the war were ignored and once again left to pick up the pieces without international support.

  • Turkey and Syria face years of earthquake reconstruction, but experts say it didn't have to be this way

A boy standing among the remaining rubble of his old house.

Twenty-one members of his family died in the earthquake.

(Credit: Pete Langley/CNN)

Entire neighborhoods have been leveled in Idlib and the Aleppo countryside.

On Saturday, CNN saw residents of Bsaina and Harem, among the hardest-hit cities in Idlib, digging through the rubble with their bare hands and garden tools.

They have lost all hope of survivors, now they just want to bury their dead.

The children were removing the rubble and looking for the bodies of their loved ones.

One man said that he was looking for brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews.

“Twenty-one, two of them are children,” Ahmad said blankly and in a daze.

Syria feels abandoned

In this part of Syria, life seems like an endless cycle of loss and pain.

Most have fled their homes multiple times, escaping a ruthless campaign by the Syrian regime and Russia.

The lack of urgent mobilization by the international community following the deadliest natural disaster the region has witnessed in generations has left them even more disillusioned.

Ismail Abdullah of the White Helmets told CNN that his group had been documenting the suffering for a decade, but their repeated pleas for help were unsuccessful.

“We called the whole world a million times to stop the bombing, no one stopped.

We said they used chemical weapons.

Now, after the humanitarian crisis, we know that they do not consider the people of northwestern Syria to be human beings,” Abdullah said.

“If they sent the heavy equipment and the advanced search and rescue team to locate those trapped under the rubble, of course we could have saved more people.”

Last Friday, after 108 hours of searching, the group, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, announced the end of the rescue operation.

Instead, the mission became a search and recovery one.

Aid groups had already been warning of a humanitarian crisis when the harsh winter began to hit.

More people could have been saved with the right equipment, according to Ismail Abdullah of the White Helmets volunteer rescue group.

(Credit: Kareem Khadder/CNN)

Children wander through the rubble after last week's devastating earthquake in Syria.

(Credit: Jomana Karadsheh/CNN)

In Bsaina, the lucky ones have tents.

Others sleep outdoors with children, desperate for shelter.

“We were sleeping under the trees… but it's so cold we came here,” said Umm Sultan, bursting into tears with her 2-year-old grandson in her arms.

“I wish we would have died with everyone else so we didn't go through this,” he said.

"We only survived to live through this misery and agony."

The mother of eight children has lost all faith that the world will answer Syria's pleas.

She and her family have not had a home in seven years.

They fled airstrikes in Aleppo province and moved closer to the Turkish border, believing they would be safer.

"We came here to escape the planes...the airstrikes were killing us," he told CNN.

Freezing temperatures worsen the tragedy in Turkey 2:37

The UN admits failures in Syria

On the night of the quake, people were running through the streets barefoot and screaming, drenched and frozen from the heavy downpour and nowhere to take shelter, she recalled.

“We heard people yelling, 'get us out... get us out.'

Then they fell silent.

They all died.

There was no one there to get them out.

Two days later they took out a boy and a girl.

Their corpses were still warm."

The bodies of more than 1,000 Syrian refugees killed in Turkey have been repatriated.

(Kareem Khadder/CNN)

There were no aid trucks lining up at the Turkish-Syrian border on Saturday.

Instead, there was a constant stream of corpses.

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees perished in the earthquake in Turkey and are now returning home in body bags.

As the men pray for their dead, a mother broke down in tears, her cries of anguish for her entire family echoing through the parking lot.

“This is a little boy… this is a girl,” a man said as they loaded body after body onto a truck.

Help has finally started to arrive, with UN convoys crossing into the region from Turkey via the Bab Al-Hawa crossing over the weekend.

But how far will it go?

On Sunday, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, tweeted from the Turkey-Syria border saying that the people of north-western Syria "justifiably feel abandoned."

“Until now we have failed the people in northwestern Syria,” Griffiths said, adding that his focus and obligation now is to “correct this failure as quickly as we can.”

-- CNN's Zaher Jaber and Celine Alkhaldi and Chris Liakos contributed reporting.

earthquakeEarthquake in Syria

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2023-02-14

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