Teams from Syria’s Civil Defense (White Helmets), as well as civilian volunteers, have continued their search and rescue efforts of survivors of the devastating earthquake that struck the country and neighboring Türkiye on Monday.
They are carrying out their efforts in the opposition-held regions in Syria's northwest.
They are in a race against time to rescue as many people as possible from under the rubble. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake has killed at least 20,000 people in Syria and Türkiye. Hopes are dwindling to find survivors.
In the Idlib’s Jindires region, Umm Mahmoud, 51, tearily look on at what was once her neighborhood. She looks at the rubble that was once her neighbors’ homes. They did not survive the quake.
She spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about the early moments when the earthquake struck.
“We were asleep. My husband, son and I. We almost lost our minds from fright. The trembling started and parts of our house began to fall on us. We managed to escape and run to an area that is not surrounded by buildings,” she recalled.
Screams and shouts soon began to rise from the houses nearby.
“Dust and pitch darkness soon pervaded the area. The screams then started to die down. We soon realized that an earthquake had destroyed everything in the city,” Umm Mahmoud said.
She added that her family tried to head back to its home to retrieve some clothes and blankets, but the roads leading to it were blocked by piles of rubble. “It was then that we realized the extent of the calamity,” she remarked.
Hundreds of buildings were turned to rubble in the quake. Dozens of heavy vehicles and Civil Defense teams are working tirelessly on the rescue efforts.
Hassan, 33, is a refugee from the Hama countryside. He is leading a group of civilian volunteers in the rescue efforts in the eastern section of Jindires.
He only has simple tools and hammers at his disposal. Along with a number of his friends, he joined rescue efforts after witnessing the extent of the devastation and the limited means of the Civil Defense teams.
The chances of finding surviving are dropping by the hour, he stated. Every delay may take place at the cost of losing a life.
The latest figures showed that 513 people were killed and 831 wounded in Jindires. Dozens of families remain trapped under the rubble.
Given the limited means, the rescue operations are painfully slow. Some 233 houses were completely destroyed and 120 were partially damaged and are susceptible to collapse at any moment.
Predominantly Kurdish Jindires is located in northwestern Aleppo. Its population stood at nearly 13,000 people before the eruption of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
It was held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) for years before Turkish forces and their allied Syrian armed factions seized control of it in March 2018 during Türkiye’s Operation Olive Branch.
Since then, it became home to over 30,000 refugees from the Aleppo and Idlib countrysides who had fled the regime. Now, many of these refugees have died in the earthquake.