Syria earthquake: Schools reopen after devastation

IDLIB, Syria –

Schools in Syria’s rebel-held northwest reopened on Saturday after being closed for nearly three weeks after an earthquake that ravaged the region, leaving many schoolchildren in shock as local officials said. I’m in pain.

Tens of thousands died as many schools were turned into temporary shelters after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck neighboring areas of Turkey and Syria on February 6.

The earthquake left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in the area. Many had already been displaced by the 12-year civil war in Syria. Because of the conflict, rebel-controlled areas are also struggling to receive much-needed humanitarian assistance.

Abdulkafi Al-Hamdou, a citizen journalist in rebel-held areas, said many students were forced to skip classes on Saturday because their homes were damaged in the earthquake and their families live far from school. He said he was absent.

“Some of the students felt uneasy about being inside the building and were nervous when they heard things like desks moving,” Al-Hamdou said in a phone call during a school visit. “Many students suffer from severe fear and anxiety. They are still in shock.”

Over the past few days, displaced people have been asked to leave school and many have moved to shelters to live in tents. But prices for the tent have skyrocketed amid shortages, selling for around US$200, or four times his pre-earthquake price. In a region where more than 90% of his population lives in poverty and relies on food and medical aid, a sturdy tent with a metal stand can cost up to US$400.

Education officials in rebel-controlled Idlib said the last two hours of Saturday and Sunday would be used to train students on how to evacuate buildings in the event of an earthquake.

One of those left homeless in the earthquake was Aisha, who lives in the rural town of Ataleb in Aleppo, and had to evacuate her home to live in a tent. She told the Associated Press that temporary shelters provided for a large family of 13 were evacuated after organizers said schools were about to reopen and courtyards where tents were set up had to be vacated. Said he had to.

“They gave us a school tent. Then the students said they had to go back and they started evacuating us,” she said, adding that she was like most women in conservative areas. As you can see, I only mentioned my first name.

Four days after moving into a small house on the outskirts of Ataleb, Aisha, a large family, was hit by a new magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Monday. “Thankfully the house didn’t collapse, but the walls are cracked,” she said. “The ceiling remained the same.”

Since then, the family has pitched a tent in the street for fear of more aftershocks.

The opposition Syrian Civil Defense Forces, also known as the White Helmets, said the quake killed 2,274 people and injured about 12,400 more in rebel-held areas. The quake destroyed 550 buildings and severely damaged at least 1,570, according to the White Helmets.

The total death toll from the earthquake is estimated at over 47,000 in Turkey and Syria, with the majority of those killed in Turkey.


Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report from Beirut.

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