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A night in Aleppo, Syria after another earthquake strikes

A firsthand account from Tearfund partners in Aleppo when another earthquake struck on 20 February.

20 Feb 2023

Children in Aleppo, Syria, sit in the dusty rubble of fallen buildings after the Turkey-Syria earthquakes. In the background some buildings still stand, but we can see into half-fallen apartments.

People in Aleppo, Syria sit amongst the rubble of buildings devastated by the Turkey-Syria earthquakes. Tearfund’s local church partners are responding to the needs.

On Monday 20 February at 08:20 PM – almost exactly two weeks since the devastating tragedy of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes – Tearfund church partners in Aleppo were meeting and we were sharing stories of the suffering and heroism that many Syrians had lived through on that dark night, when suddenly we felt the earth shaking under our feet.

At first, we didn’t understand what was happening. Then, we saw a mother running in search of her children, a sister running in the other direction to carry her brother with special needs, and many elderly people scrambling to get out of the building – holding on to one another and the few possessions they still owned.

We fled.

On the streets of Aleppo in the severe cold

Everyone ran towards the road only to find another surreal scene – people running in many different directions, screaming, crying and drivers honking car horns – a sound which only increased people's terror.

We made it out to the street. On the pavement were dozens of families who had left their homes in a hurry. They were dressed in whatever they had been wearing, and had wrapped themselves in blankets to ward off the severe cold.

Down the street, we saw a little girl embracing her father, weeping inconsolably.

A group of women stood holding the hands of the bishop of the church. One asked in a sad, pained voice, ‘Why?’

‘A group of women stood holding the hands of the bishop of the church. One asked in a sad, pained voice, ‘Why?’’

Moments later, we heard the sounds of firefighting vehicles and ambulances.

Looking for safety

The bishop looked at me and sadly said to me: ‘Everybody is asking me why I don’t stop receiving people in the church and send people to their homes. But no one wants to go home... Yes, no one…’

The bishop called his people and asked them to open the doors of all their churches in Aleppo to receive the panicking and scared people.

Like everyone else, we started looking for a safe place to spend the night – reluctant and afraid to go back inside buildings that might still fall. We stayed in the street – children, the elderly, women, and men. People prepared to sleep the night in their cars, in the parks or even on the side of the road.

‘Down the street, we saw a little girl embracing her father, weeping inconsolably.’

After about an hour, we decided to go and look for a coffee shop that was isolated from other buildings and that did not have any floors above it. We drove through streets filled with people overwhelmed with panic, and past buildings that stood empty as most of the residents were in the street.

A city of disaster.

It was ten o'clock at night when we entered the café. Many families had already sought shelter there with their children. Some had brought their pets – including dogs and birds – hoping to escape the possibility of death in their homes.

There was a woman in the middle of the café changing her baby's nappy. An old woman in another corner laid her head on the table to take some rest, to escape the day’s trouble and exhaustion.

A few minutes later, another light aftershock happened. We could see the chandeliers in the cafe swinging…

The Turkey-Syria earthquakes

The people of Syria have already experienced more than 12 years of conflict, during which most have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods. The tragedy of the earthquakes that struck on 6 February come as an unwelcome reminder of our vulnerability – destroying what is left of hope for stability, peace, and a dignified life.

Thousands in Syria are in a state of shock. Pain intersects the suffering and trauma of the earthquake.

Amidst the feelings of despair, frustration and fear experienced by the Syrian people, the church is moving to alleviate this suffering, despite their very limited resources.

Tearfund’s response to the earthquake

Tearfund, through our local church partners, has already provided support in the following ways:

  • Receiving more than 1,200 people into church facilities and providing them with all their basic needs of food, hygiene and a safe space.
  • Distribution of more than 6,000 individual meals to displaced people in the streets and tents immediately after the earthquake.
  • Providing people in the churches with psychosocial first aid.
  • Preparing more than 1,200 hygiene kits, 980 family food parcels and 400 dignity kits to be distributed.

One of the church leaders said: ‘Syria needs a miracle from the Lord Jesus to rise again.’

Please pray with us to the Lord Jesus to raise Syria from its death and pain, as he rose from the dead.

May God have mercy on these suffering people and grant them peace, love and safety.


Pray with us in the wake of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes

    • Pray for peace, love and safety for the people of Syria who have experienced trauma and loss through these earthquakes.
    • Lift up the churches responding. Ask God for resources, for grace and for strength and protection as they continue to be a safe place for people.
    • Pray, in the words of a Syrian church leader, for a miracle for Syria – to be raised from death and pain.

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