“We were asleep when the earthquake struck – I thought it was an airstrike so I ran outside,” said Mohammed Hadi, weeping gently as he clutched his baby daughter. “I grabbed my wife and two of my children and took them with me. My wife was gripping my hand tightly as we ran. But then, once we got outside, she realised two of our daughters were still inside and ran back in to save them.”
He described seeing a flash of white, which cleared to reveal the rubble of what was once his new home. The collapse of the five-storey apartment block had claimed his three loved ones’ lives as Hadi watched.
Hadi’s tent was one of at least 65 flimsy canvas dwellings now dotting the rocky hillside in the town of Al-Haram, in Idlib province, north-west Syria, all of them overlooking their occupants’ former homes, destroyed by last week’s earthquake and aftershocks. Chalky white dust blew across the hills from the piles of shattered concrete, sticking in the throat of every person it reached.
The earthquake has compounded layers upon layers of humanitarian crisis in Idlib. These were homes of people already internally displaced once when the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and his backers in Moscow had attacked their villages, forcing them to seek shelter in Idlib. Most said they had arrived so recently that they had been sleeping in houses with bare concrete walls and little else. Continue