The Maronite archbishop of Aleppo in "Nova": "The population is on its last legs"

“We are all afraid. I for one didn't know what to do. It was something terrible, a devastation never seen before, not even during the war "

The population of Aleppo, in northern Syria, is on its last legs due to the two aftershocks of earthquakes of magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 recorded yesterday in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, which added to the consequences of over 12 years of war. This is what was stated to "Agenzia Nova", by the archbishop of the Maronite Church of Aleppo, monsignor Youssef Tobji. “Here in Aleppo there is a feeling of general fear. The population is completely in shock because an earthquake of this magnitude has never been seen before”, says the archbishop, who specifies that there are still aftershocks after the first two devastating earthquakes. “We are all afraid. I for one didn't know what to do. It was something terrible, a devastation never seen before, not even during the war", says Monsignor Tobij.

"Most of the buildings in Aleppo are not made to resist earthquakes and are fragile due to the bombings caused by twelve years of war", observes the archbishop. “Now, following the earthquake, at least 60 condominiums have collapsed with people inside them,” he adds. The prelate explains that so far about 300 dead and over 600 injured have been recorded in Aleppo alone, while the displaced amount to about 1.500 people. "The government has opened 126 reception centers and we as churches - there are eleven different Christian denominations in Aleppo - have opened all the places of worship and parish halls and are welcoming the population as best we can", says Monsignor Tobij. "We try to do our best," says the prelate, who underlines how many people in the city who were not involved in the collapses have offered food and water to the survivors. "At the moment the main problem is if and when the displaced will be able to return to their homes", adds the archbishop, according to whom the population is afraid to return to their homes, even if still standing, due to the constant aftershocks. The prelate says that everything is missing, from milk for children to diesel, goods that were already scarce before the earthquake due to the sanctions imposed by Western countries against the government of President Bashar al Assad.

“There is a lack of basic necessities such as milk for children which has not been available for some time, also due to the economic sanctions imposed by the West and which have been killing us for years. We are without diesel, petrol, electricity and gas", says the prelate, noting that the last two days have been characterized by harsh weather conditions, with rain and snow and temperatures below zero. “Today the climate has improved, but at night the temperature drops three or four degrees below zero,” he adds. As regards humanitarian aid, various countries have mobilized such as Iraq, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Russia at the state level, while various Catholic associations have contacted the Maronite archdiocese of Aleppo and the other Christian dioceses to provide basic necessities and blankets. "Unfortunately, however, they are far away and the situation is urgent", observes the prelate, specifying that despite the offer of help, their arrival in the areas affected by the earthquake is difficult.

Turkey and Syria were hit yesterday by two very violent earthquakes in what the Turkish president defined as the most serious earthquake since the one that struck the Turkish province of Erzincan in 1939. The first shock of magnitude 7.8 was recorded at 4 :17 local time (2:17 in Italy) and its epicenter was the town of Pazarcik in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras. A second earthquake of magnitude 7.6 was recorded around 13:24 pm local time (11:24 am in Italy) in the district of Elbistan, also in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras. According to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 72 villages and cities under the control of the Damascus government led by President Bashar al Assad - including Latakia, Hama and Aleppo - were affected by the earthquake. The provinces of Afrin and Idlib, largely controlled by rebel militias supported by the Turkish Armed Forces, have also been devastated.

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