Syria’s coastal city of Jabre, the regime’s heartland, has largely survived the worst of the war, but a major earthquake has now plunged it into misery along with the rest of the war-torn country. middle.
With buildings razed, civilians trapped under the rubble and residents forced to flee their homes, Jabre no longer has the kind of devastation that has long plagued neighboring areas.
“This is the first disaster of its kind in Jableh,” Abdulhadi al-Ajji said. “I’m 52 years old and I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life.”
The father of four, whose cracked cinder-block home overlooks a ruined building, said his city had always been a safe haven, even at the height of Syria’s nearly 12-year war.
Gabriel sent men to fight as the rebels expanded their foothold across the country, but never saw significant fighting on their own soil.
“Even my 80-year-old mother told me that nothing like this has ever happened here,” said Ajji, a carpenter.
Jableh is located in Latakia, a province mainly controlled by the government and one of the provinces most affected by the earthquake.
Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Syrian border, killing more than 24,000 people, including at least 3,553 in Syria.
In Latakia province alone, the quake killed at least 623 people and the death toll is rising by the hour, according to Alaa Moubarak, head of civil defense in Al Jabul province.
– ‘Nowhere to go’ –
The neighborhoods of Jableh have long since fallen into disrepair, though they bear no symbolic scars from the country’s years of war.
But Mubarak said more than 50 apartment buildings in and around the city had completely collapsed and at least 50 more were at risk of collapse.
He added that an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 residents were forced from their homes and took refuge in mosques, hospitals and city stadiums.
A rescue team from the United Arab Emirates worked on Friday on a completely flattened building that was initially torn in two when the quake struck.
The first part fell immediately, followed by the rest. At least 15 people were killed.
Imad al-Daou, his wife and two children narrowly survived when the floor collapsed beneath their feet.
“This is the first disaster of this kind that I have experienced in my life,” said the 42-year-old businessman.
“They had to use an excavator to pull me out.”
Jableh is part of the Syrian coastal region that includes government strongholds of Latakia and Tartus – also largely untouched by the conflict.
The area is known as a recruiting ground for President Bashar al-Assad’s army, where most of his troops are drawn.
Assad’s Russian ally also has a strong presence in the region. The Russian air base at Khmeimim is 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Jebul, and the naval port of Tartus is about 60 kilometers to the south.
– ‘Tents on the Street’ –
The war in Syria, which began in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests, has killed nearly half a million people and displaced at least half of the country’s pre-war population.
As a result of the fighting, there have been massive population movements across most of the country.
But it wasn’t until the earthquake that the residents of Jebul were forced to flee their homes.
In the city’s Al-Fayed neighbourhood, dozens of evacuees huddled in a mosque-turned-shelter, waiting to see if their homes were safe to return.
With nowhere else to go, they’ve lived there for five days and can’t even afford food, let alone temporary accommodation.
If I couldn’t go home, “I’d pitch a tent on the street,” said Fatima Hammoud.
The 42-year-old mother of three fled her damaged home with her husband and children on Monday for fear the roof would cave in on their heads.
“I couldn’t sleep. I remember all the shivering every time I felt the slightest movement,” she said.
Halima al-Aswad, who lay on the floor nearby, also said she had been haunted by fear since the disaster.
“Where am I going? The only safe place is the mosque,” the mother-of-three said, fighting back tears.
“Where is safe, I will go there.”
(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)
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