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Syria seeks treatment and search for survivors of the earthquake

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Syrians who survived Monday’s deadly earthquake are receiving treatment in hospitals, as they mourn the loss of their loved ones.

In a hospital in Syria, Osama Abdel Hamid wept as he recalled on Monday the powerful earthquake that destroyed his home and killed his neighbors and hundreds of his compatriots.

“We were fast asleep when we felt a huge earthquake,” Abdul Hamid told AFP at Al-Rahma Hospital in the northwestern province of Idlib, where he was being treated for a head injury.

The 7.8-magnitude pre-dawn earthquake, with its epicenter in Kahramanmaraş province in Turkey, wiped out entire parts of cities in Turkey and ravaged by the war in Syria.

Officials put the total number of dead at more than 2,300.

“I woke my wife and children up and we ran towards the exit door,” said the man when the earthquake shook the Abdel Hamid family home in the village of Azmarin, near the Syrian border with Turkey.

“We opened the door, and suddenly the whole building collapsed.”

Within moments, Abdelhamid found himself under the rubble of the four-storey building.

All his neighbors died, but the family was spared.

“The walls collapsed on top of us, but my son managed to get out,” Abdel Hamid said. “He started screaming and people gathered around him, knowing there were survivors, and they pulled us out from under the rubble.”

They were taken to hospital in the town of Darkush, several kilometers south along the Turkish border, located in the last major opposition-held stronghold in Idlib.

Soon the facility had to admit patients far beyond its capacity and receive at least 30 dead bodies.

An AFP photographer saw several ambulances arriving at Mercy, one after the other, carrying wounded people, including many children.

“The situation is bad,” said Majid Ibrahim, the general surgeon at the hospital, which had arrived late in the morning about 150 injured in the earthquake.

“Many people are still under the rubble of buildings,” he told AFP.

“We need urgent help for the region, especially medical assistance.”

Many ‘still trapped’

The Syrian government and rescue workers said that at least 890 people have been killed across the war-torn country.

The Health Ministry said at least 461 people were killed and 1,326 wounded in government-held areas.

The White Helmets rescue group said at least 430 others were killed and more than 1,050 wounded in rebel-held areas.

The group had warned earlier on Monday that “the death toll may rise because many families are still trapped.”

In one of the crowded hospital rooms, the wounded were lying on beds, some with bandages on their heads while others were being treated for fractures.

On one of the beds, a boy with his head covered with a bandage was sleeping next to another patient.

In another room, a little girl was crying as she received an injection with her hand covered in a cast.

Muhammad Barakat, 24, was being treated for a broken leg.

“I took my kids and walked out,” remembers the father-of-four, lying in bed with wounds covering parts of his face.

“My house is old and the building is very old,” he told AFP.

“So I was afraid it would collapse on us. The walls of the neighboring houses started collapsing when we were on the street.”

‘Judgment Day’

The earthquake hit Kahramanmaraş in southeastern Turkey at 04:17 am (1:17 am GMT) at a depth of about 7 kilometers (4.35 miles).

And in the town of Sarmada in the countryside of Idlib governorate, a number of buildings were bulldozed.

Mattresses and blankets were strewn among the remains of solar panels and water tanks on top of the rubble.

An AFP photographer saw rescue workers begin clearing rubble and removing large chunks of concrete, hoping to find survivors.

Anas Habash said he “ran down the stairs like crazy,” carrying his son and ushering his pregnant wife outside the apartment building in the northern city of Aleppo, which came under government control after heavy fighting in 2016.

“As soon as we went out into the street, we saw dozens of families in shock and fear,” the 37-year-old told AFP.

Some knelt to pray and others began to weep, “as if on the Day of Judgment.”

Habash said, “I have not felt this feeling throughout the years of war” in Syria since 2011.

“This was much more difficult than shells and bullets.”

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