Syria struggles to cope with earthquake, as Assad demands aid flows through his regime
Lack of heavy machinery and well-equipped teams have slowed rescue operations in Syria, as the country’s death toll from the earthquake approaches 3,000.
The Syria Civil Defence — internationally known as the White Helmets — is heading the rescue effort across the country, leveraging years of experience from the Syrian civil war.
The group deployed its volunteers in Syria’s northwest in response to Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
The earthquake caused more than 400 buildings in the country’s northwest to collapse. Another 1,300 were severely damaged.
Aleppo was one of the worst-hit places in Syria. And the earthquake piled on many human-made disasters.
“To ensure we do not die, where else can people go? They have no options. They have no homes, no tents. Where can they go? They can only rest here until the situation gets better,” Youssef Al-Hasawy, one of the city’s residents, said.
Some residents are still afraid to return to their homes that survived the earthquake, choosing to shelter in surviving schools instead. A Maronite Christian monastery took in more than 800 people.
Bashar al-Assad’s government demands that aid flows through it
Amid an outpouring of sympathy for the Syrians hit by the earthquake, Damascus has seized the moment to reiterate its long-standing demand for aid to be coordinated with President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The West has shunned Assad since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.
Western powers have shown no sign they are ready to meet that demand or re-engage with Assad, but difficulties facing cross-border aid flows have strengthened his hand.
Assad has blamed European and US sanctions for the lack of aid.
Around 4 million people critically rely on aid in the region. And that flow has temporarily halted since the earthquake, though a UN official said it could continue on Thursday.
The organisation has also called for authorities to put politics aside to ensure rescue teams can continue their work.