‘I thought these were the last seconds of my life’

Fared Al Mahlool in Idlib, northwestern Syria

It was 4:25 am on the morning of February 6, and I was in the town of Salqin in rural Idlib, northwestern Syria.

When the earthquake started I thought it would last a few seconds as usual. But not this time. The house began to shake violently.

I ran to my family, opened the door of the house and we ran to the stairs to the bottom of the building. Stones fell violently everywhere and there was the sound of breaking glass everywhere.

There was also that strange, terrifying sound some said it seemed to come from the depths of the earth.

At that moment I thought that these were the last seconds of my life and there was no escaping it.

The earthquake lasted a whole minute and 30 seconds. When it finally ended, my family and I ran out into the street. What followed were moments I will not forget for the rest of my life.

It was freezing cold and the people outside were naked. There was a lot of rain and fog. As we stood there, there was another shock, an aftershock, but this one was weaker. I heard women and children screaming. It was a horrible sound.

The earthquake had destroyed many residential buildings and killed thousands of people in northwestern Syria. Immediately the Syrian civil defense teams, known as White Helmets, left.

They soon began to rescue people from under the rubble, and they did an almighty job. But, unfortunately, they did not have enough heavy equipment. Still, people rushed out to support the rescuers and help them free the injured.

My uncle, his wife and his daughter all died in this devastating earthquake. We were only able to pull them out of the rubble after three days.

A very large number of non-residential buildings have also been damaged and the death toll in northwestern Syria is more than 2,000. Another 1,000 people were injured.

As I write this, the White Helmets are still pulling my neighbors out from under the rubble.

Here people have become very scared and cannot sleep at home. So they have resorted to staying in public places, such as schools, mosques or camps on the outskirts of the city.

On the first day of the earthquake disaster, Syria immediately asked for international help. We asked for international rescue teams, heavy equipment and humanitarian aid, such as milk for children, clothing, heating, tents and so on.

But unfortunately we didn’t get any kind of help at all even though the border crossings with Turkey are open.

As a photojournalist, I’ve been on site all week, day and night, covering the story. When I’m not working, I rest in my friend’s car.

For all the horror, there have been some incredible moments, like when the White Helmets pulled a little girl, Noor, safely out of the rubble.

They are true heroes saving lives in the most horrific circumstances, but they just don’t get the international support they need.

Leave a Comment