Marwa, 12, and her family woke up to the earthquake on 6 February. “I went towards the door and the staircase ahead of my family,” she recalls. “They were still at the door when the building collapsed and we were all buried under the rubble.”
Marwa Al-Mahmoud is from the city of Atarib, west of Aleppo Governorate in northwest Syria. She is the only member of her family who survived. In total, 20 people in the apartment building died and only nine survived.
“The neighbours came towards the rubble and started calling out. I responded and started talking to them. My uncles, cousins and people from the neighbourhood pulled me out. They pulled me out first and checked me for injuries.”
“Then I found out my whole family had died. My whole family is gone. My mother, my father and my siblings. Praise be to God for everything.”
When the earthquake hit, Muhammad Rajab Lattouf told his children to leave him behind. Wheelchair bound, they were struggling to get him out.
Muhammad’s father left the building and saw other apartment blocks collapsing, one after the other. “My father wanted me and my brother, who had lost his leg, to come out. He started calling out for us to leave, he’s elderly so he couldn’t carry me.”
“The buildings were collapsing on top of people while they were sleeping at 4am. I told my brother to leave me. I couldn’t leave because of my injury and I told my children and my mother to go and leave me.”
But Muhammad’s brother refused to go and eventually managed to carry him out. “We stood outside in the rain. It was raining hard and I was only wearing the shorts that I was sleeping in. We didn’t have any time to put anything on because of the earthquake.”
The buildings in Atarib were already damaged from the Syrian regime’s bombing, says Muhammad, which is why so many collapsed when the earthquake struck.
“In Atarib, more than 250 people died and some 700 people were injured. Atarib has been forgotten and overlooked by all the NGOs and the media. We hoped there would be more focus given to this disaster-stricken area.”
When their apartment started shaking, Akram Al-Abdullah and his brother slid out onto their balcony and climbed onto their uncle’s in the next door building. His sisters and younger brothers had gone to find their parents.
But when he got to the neighbouring house Akram turned and saw his family’s apartment building collapse with his family still inside.
“The entire upper floor collapsed on them and they died,” he recalls. “Eight people died. My parents, my three sisters. We pulled my brother out. But also my sister-in-law, my niece and my older brother died. That’s eight people.”
Akram also lives in the city of Atarib. He spends his days cleaning up the one room which did not collapse so that he can return and live in it.
On 6 February Abu Ali and Umm Ali were able to get two of their three children, who are disabled, out of the building and then went back for the third, Ali.
As the building collapsed, they protected Ali by lying on top of him. He sustained a broken leg and a fracture in his foot and Umm Ali suffered severe head and body wounds.
The family are from Jindiris in the north of Aleppo Governorate where barely 25 per cent of the original population are still alive. They managed to carry Ali out before their house collapsed and now live in a tent in front of their demolished home.