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Homeless Syrians on the streets of Turkey and their loved ones under rubble

Hundreds of Syrian families, like the Turks, are waiting in several Turkish cities to know the fate of their children, with whom communications were cut off due to the devastating earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria at dawn on February 6, killing more than 9,800 people in both neighboring countries, in addition to wounding. Tens of thousands were injured, so what is the situation of the people in those cities affected?

The extent of the damage caused by the earthquake varies from region to region: in south-western Turkey, the destruction seems huge, as in the case of the city of Antakya, where entire Syrian families have died in the earthquake, and other Syrian families waiting for their children trapped under the rubble to be rescued, Agency said they are Syrians living in Antakya and its suburbs near the Syrian border.

Most of the victims in Antakya are Syrian

A Syrian refugee who hails from rural Idlib and has been residing in Antioch for years said, “The highest casualty rate in and around Antioch may be the share of Syrians, as this city is close to the Syrian border, and hundreds of thousands they took refuge there years ago because of the war until their numbers exceeded the population.

He told Al-Arabiya.net: “Most of them lived in old houses that were in need of repair, and with the intensity of the earthquake that first hit and the aftershocks that followed, their homes were transformed in rubble, and this is what led to the killing of entire families, some of which came from the countryside of Latakia”. Emphasizing that “there are people stuck under the rubble, while their families are waiting to be rescued”.

Since the beginning of the Syrian war, southern Turkish cities, which witnessed a strong earthquake at dawn on Monday, have been transformed into safe havens for Syrians to escape from military operations, as millions of people reside there, but their numbers were highest in the cities of Urfa, Antakya and the surrounding areas of Gaziantep, Adana, and Marash.

It is missing under the rubble

To date, it seems that the Syrian families residing in and around Antakya are the most affected by the earthquake, and most of them have confirmed the presence of relatives with whom communication has been interrupted, which means that they are under the rubble. Others also spoke of rescue teams who rescued some of their personnel stranded under the rubble.

A Syrian man living on the outskirts of Antakya said: “Rescue teams managed to save my son, one day after the building collapsed in where I was staying, and was brought in hospital for treatment due to fractures to his body,” noting that “what contributed to his rescue was that the building was one-story, which helped the rescue crews get there quickly.”

They sleep on buses

Most Syrians living in affected areas of Turkey have moved into shelters set up by the Disaster Authority, while others have converted their buses into a safe haven for them after they managed to escape the overcrowded areas where they were and reach empty parks and squares away from the buildings.

Meanwhile, a resident Syrian refugee in one of those prefabricated centers stressed that “aid is being provided in equal parts Syrians and Turks, but some mayors deliberately running neighborhood affairs in some areas rent out tents and prefab houses that have been sent by the Disaster Authority to affected areas.”

Exploit the crisis

This refugee’s testimony coincided with that of other refugees, who confirmed that the price for renting a tent amounted to about $150, especially in the areas most affected by the earthquake.

Another refugee expressed his happiness in getting a shelter tent with various groceries, noting that “the large number of people in the shelters has in somehow led to a bad organization”.

The situation of Syrians differs from one city to another: in Antakya and its surroundings, in Marash and in the areas close to them, a Syrian family is almost without a relative in waiting to be lifted from under the rubble, while in Diyarbakir and Urfa, which are located in southeastern Turkey, the situation seems different, given that the destruction in both cities was smaller than Marash and Antioch.

Although Syrians living in Diyarbakir and Urfa have left their homes and have also gone to shelters and camped in gardens and public places to protect themselves from earthquake frequencies, some of them have relied on autos and buses, which they transformed into safe havens for them after fleeing to the outskirts of the two cities and their empty squares.

Fears of a new shock

While a number of Syrian refugees told Al-Arabiya.net: “We are waiting in our buses in fear of any new earthquake, and moving away from the buildings is the best and only solution we have.”

An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday. Hundreds of aftershocks followed in both countries.

Syria is home to more than three million Syrian refugees, most of whom live in Turkey’s southern cities, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared cities affected by the “disaster” of the earthquake that hit them.

Yesterday the Turkish president also declared a state of emergency for a period of 3 months in the cities affected by Monday’s earthquake.

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