A Father’s Quest to Save His Children
Syrian history is riddled with unforgettable dates- 15 March marks the beginning of the Syrian war that ravaged the country and now-6 February is engraved in their memories.
On that dreadful day, families were awoken by a deadly earthquake. Little did they know it was only the beginning to a series of aftershocks. So far, 14,000 aftershocks have been recorded in Syria varying in magnitude. Some of these aftershocks recorded 5 on the Richter scale while some reached a staggering 7.5.
When the ground started pounding, fathers and mothers held on to their children hoping it would stop but a couple of seconds’ earthquake was enough to result in an unfathomable damage.
“During the earthquake, the situation was horrible, it felt like the end of the World,” Shares Yahya* who grabbed his children tightly while his house swayed from left to right.
The 40-year-old father is one of the Syrians who managed to escape the rubble. But that wasn’t the case for almost 7 thousand Syrian people who were trapped under the rubble. They waited for help while people above ran miles to try to get them out. But lack of resources and heavy machineries sealed their fate.
Neighbours , family members and search and rescue teams who were working at their full capacity helped those who were lucky enough to escape.
This was the reality in Syria since the first earthquake mayhem.
The father was in shock. Too many things had happened. He continues to share, “We live on the 4th floor and I was awake at that time,” he shares. Luckily, the father was conscious during the incident and was able to grasp the situation. At first, he hoped it would go away but it only intensified, car alarms began beeping, people were screaming and the building started swinging.
Realising they were stationed high; he made the decision to immediately evacuate. So, he sprinted to wake his mother [she lives with the family] and his children. While Yahya and his family were heading out, he shut off the electricity to avoid the possibility of a fire or maybe a part of him prayed in a couple of minutes they would all go back home- but fate decided otherwise.
Feeling His Way Through The Dark
Yahya began walking through the darkness; he had no time to grab anything or a flashlight. He was fortunate to gather his children and family. The father is clenching to his children but the shaking ground is pulling his family apart, his children are slipping through his hands. So, he picked up his child in his arms and ran down the stairs.
The way to safety felt like eternity and the sturdy stairs felt like a slide so “I was sliding for the fourth floor to the ground floor,” he shares. Finally, the family is outside, but they were greeted by rain and freezing weather. “We were barefoot and wearing pyjamas, but we stood under the rain,” he shares.
Just as the family was thinking of taking a sigh of relief, a second aftershock hit the area. “We were outside, between the buildings thank God, the scene was horrible”. And just like that, the family managed to escape a deadly earthquake. But, they left all of their belongings back at their cracked home and they have nowhere to go.
Knowing he can contact his family for support, Yahya reached out to his sister in another area to check on her and family. He later arranged to meet in another severely affected area. Upon their arrival, he couldn’t recognise her house. The town was completely demolished and his sister’s home was one of the 10,700 affected buildings in Syria. This meant, a temporary shelter is their only and last option.
So the family headed with the clothes on their backs to a shelter. However, they were stunned upon arrival. It was crowded- the family was among 86,000 people who also became displaced after their homes were completely or partially destroyed. This sudden surge of displaced persons added another layer of demand on the already limited numbers of tents and resources. Thankfully, the family was able to secure a tent but it is far from ideal. There are “no schools, no toilets, there is only one and people queue to use it. we are 13 people and we are in one tent,”
This means lack of privacy for his mother, no education for his children and limited resources. However, Yahya feels thankful his children are alive “thank God children can forget easily, we buy them stuff to make them happy, aid workers support them, some people get them toys and clothes”.
Syria earthquake affected a severely devastated country that has been witnessing war for the past 12 years and suffers from an alarming lack of resources. The quake only put more pressure on the restricted capabilities.
But, people are resilient and Yahya is a prime example. His determination to salvage his family shows the great length a father is willing to go to just to keep his family safe.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.