Quake survivors and rescuers are fighting in Syrian government areas
LATAKIA, Syria (Reuters) – The last thing Nuhad Dawoud heard before his house collapsed on him was the sound of his wife praying as the walls of their home shook in the early hours of Monday morning.
Dawoud is hospitalized and says he emerged from the rubble three days later when he was able to crawl to rescuers.
“They called me but my voice was weak … They didn’t reach me until the third or fourth day,” said the 62-year-old man at Tishreen Hospital in the coastal city of Latakia, an area under government control during the nation’s 12-year civil war .
Bad weather in the first two nights made Dawoud shiver and freeze. As the sky cleared, he saw a ray of light.
“It was dark under the rubble. I crawled down there and wherever I crawled I hit something. I said to myself, ‘If you see the light, follow it.’ When I saw a light, I followed it and then got out.”
Dawoud fought back tears and said rescue workers found no trace of his wife.
Syrian and Russian teams have been working to rescue people in government-controlled parts of Syria, where more than 1,300 people were killed and 2,000 injured in the quake.
As in opposition-held parts of Syria, where millions were in need of aid even before the disaster struck, and in neighboring Turkey, the extent of the destruction was devastating.
Rescuers lack heavy machinery to lift debris.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government has acknowledged shortcomings in its aid efforts, blaming the aftermath of 12 years of civil war and Western economic sanctions.
‘WHERE DO WE GO?’
Assad was visiting a hospital in the northern city of Aleppo, the presidency said on Friday, on his first reported trip to an earthquake zone. He assessed damage and spoke with his wife to people at their beds.
Housing the many thousands of people displaced from their destroyed or unsafe homes is also a major challenge.
Dozens of people, mostly women and children, have taken refuge in a mosque in the town of Jableh, south of Latakia. Most have been displaced at least once during the war that broke out in 2011 after protests against Assad.
Umm Mohamed moved from Aleppo in 2014 after years of fighting in Syria’s main commercial city.
Her husband died during the war. One of her two daughters, already mentally scarred by the sounds of the fighter planes, was further traumatized by the earthquake and now screams and cries at night, she said.
“The situation is very, very bad… If we want to leave, where do we go, do we go out on the street?” said Umm Mohamed.
(Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)