Like so many victims of the earthquake that destroyed houses and took tens of thousands of lives, Suleiman Hamdo and his family were asleep when it hit.
As the building came crashing down, Suleiman, his mother and one of his brothers escaped. As the walls fell one after the other, his two other brothers got trapped under the rubble.
Eventually the Civil Defence was able to save his brothers and they are now in a hospital in Idlib receiving treatment. Suleiman told photojournalist Asaad Al-Asaad that he and his mother are sheltering by the road until they can find a new house to live in nearby.
With this, the family became one of 5.3 million people in Syria who are now homeless following the widespread destruction caused by the earthquake last week.
Suleiman’s apartment was in Jindires, a town in the Afrin District of the Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria.
The UN has said the situation in the northwest, the last opposition-held area of the country, is becoming increasingly desperate.
The 4.5 million Syrians who live in the northern provinces already lived in poverty. Malnutrition, lack of water, inadequate medicine and a serious cholera outbreak were just some of the prevalent crises they had to contend with.
Even prior to the earthquake, roughly 90 per cent of people relied on humanitarian assistance and now almost 900,000 are in need of hot food.
Asaad says the situation is catastrophic. “The entire area is teeming with homeless people whose homes have collapsed,” he says, describing the scene where he went to film. “Jindires is the most badly affected area.”
Barely 25 per cent of the population are still alive, according to local resident Yasser Abdel Qader. “Even buildings that are still standing are not suitable for living in. No one dares enter them, everything is cracked, and there are still tremors,” he says.
“We don’t have any clothes, bedding or covers. We can’t even find tents to shelter us.”
“The situation after the earthquake is tragic,” a volunteer offering psychological support for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent tells MEMO.
“There has been a distress call for the earthquake victims to secure shelter for them,” continues Hiba Karm, whose family are in northwest Syria.
The people who survived the earthquake are sheltering under olive trees with no food and no heaters in this cold weather.
“They are asking for tents after their homes were destroyed. It was not enough that they lost their homes and children. Dozens of families sleep under the sky and in the open air. There you will find elderly people, children, and women.”
On Monday, trucks carrying mobile medical clinics, medical material and food entered Jindires from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Whilst a few search and rescue teams, including from Egypt, Spain and Saudi, and a delegation of Qatari doctors have entered the northwest, the UN has said that only five per cent of the area impacted is being covered by such operations.
So long after the tragedy itself, there is little chance of finding anyone alive: “Six days after the devastating earthquake, all people are being exhumed dead,” says Asaad.
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