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Syrian Cities Wiped by Earthquakes

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At a hospital in Syria, Osama Abdel Hamid was holding back tears as he recalled on Monday the powerful earthquake that toppled his home and killed his neighbours, along with hundreds of his compatriots.

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

The 7.8 magnitude quake whose epicentre was near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, wiped out entire sections of cities in Turkey and war-ravaged Syria. Officials have put the combined death count at more than 1,900.

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

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

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

All of his neighbours died, but the family made it out alive.

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

They were taken to the hospital in Darkush, a town several kilometres (miles) to the south along the Turkish border.

The facility soon had to take in patients far beyond its capacity and received at least 30 dead bodies.

An AFP photographer saw multiple ambulances arriving at Al-Rahma one after the other, carrying casualties including many children.

“The situation is bad,” said Majid Ibrahim, general surgeon at the hospital, where by the late morning some 150 people injured in the quake had arrived.

“A lot of people are still under the debris of the buildings,” he told AFP.

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

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