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"A tragedy within a tragedy" - the earthquake that left millions with nothing

First came the civil war in Syria which forced Hind Qayduha's family to flee their home to Aleppo. Afterwards, the conflict and the conditions in which they found themselves forced them to flee twice more, until two years ago, they finally found in Turkey the security and stability they were looking for so much.

Until two powerful earthquakes (the most intense to strike the region in 100 years) of magnitudes 7.7 and 7.5, caused the loss of thousands of lives and untold destruction in the regions of Turkey's border with Syria.

Like thousands of infrastructures, the family's apartment was completely destroyed. They were forced, like so many other survivors, to stay out in the open, in makeshift tents, close to the mountains, enduring the low temperatures.

Hind Qayduha and her family in a makeshift shelter after the earthquake destroyed their home. Emily Garthwaite/NYT

For the Qayduha family, as for so many other refugees, this is a tragedy within a tragedy. Unfortunately, they already know all too well what it's like to lose a home, family and friends. For more than 12 years they have been suffering from the consequences of a bloody war, which left more than 300.000 dead and forced more than 12 million people to flee, half of whom still remain in Syria. Many others managed to find (what they hoped would be) a safe haven by fleeing to Turkey, which is the country with the largest number of refugees in the world, currently numbering around 3.7 million, the vast majority from Syria.

In addition to the intensification of difficulties, deportations and discrimination felt in recent times, Syrian refugees are now (re)living yet another tragedy, which for many is still difficult to understand. They managed to survive bombs, bullets, gas and so many other attacks but this catastrophe, like never before, left them with nothing and nowhere to go. Thousands have lost everything and many admit they don't know how to rebuild their lives once again.

This tragedy comes at a tense moment between the two peoples, with Turkish public opinion turning against the Syrians, blaming them for the country's ills. It is expected that after these earthquakes and with the May elections at hand, this situation will only get worse. Even if some Turks now turn against Syrian refugees, preventing them from receiving help, solidarity still exists in the catastrophe, where everyone loses and everyone tries to save themselves.

In Syria, the situation is appalling, with the continuation of the civil war, the lack of conditions and the difficulty for emergency teams to enter the affected areas. It is estimated that more than 5 million people were displaced, adding to the already 6.8 million people who are displaced within the country because of the war. Most of the parts affected by the earthquake are governed by forces rebelling against the regime, and their access is blocked. Only now, that the Syrian government has allowed them in, is it beginning to be possible to perceive the true scale of the destruction.

So far, more than 41.000 people have died and thousands of corpses remain under the rubble of these earthquakes. In the midst of the destruction, family members, friends, acquaintances or any sign of life are still being looked for. Hope or pain lead some to refuse to leave the affected cities, surviving without any roof to protect them, electricity, water or heating. Without enough rescue teams, the victims themselves remain close to the bodies of their loved ones and many are ready to remove any bodies they find. This is a crisis of colossal proportions, within other crises and that will take decades to recover.


To help emergency teams secure the necessary action and support, you can make donations to the various institutions on the ground, such as: White Helmets; UNICEF; Portugal with UNHCR; IRC ; Doctors of the World; AMI; Red Cross/ Red Crescent; and so many others.


A Syrian couple carries their only possessions in Elbistan, Turkey. Mehmet Kacmaz/Getty Images

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