From The Photographer: The Syrian Earthquake

It was 8 pm on Monday the 20th of February when the next big 6.3 magnitude earthquake happened, exactly two weeks after the first catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The building started to shake for about 20-30 seconds, though it felt like hours because of how strong the shaking was. All I could imagine was the ceiling falling on my and my family’s heads.

Rescue teams work to move the rubble of destroyed houses after an earthquake in Syria.
Karam Al-Masri / DEC / Arete

I live on the fourth floor and knew that the stairwell would be filled with other people trying to escape. So, instead, I grabbed my son and my wife’s hand and started our escape plan, which my wife and I had put into place after the first earthquake, and ran up onto the roof. After the first earthquake, I spoke to some survivors, and they said that they survived by being on the roof instead of trying to flee their building.

A man shows the damage in his home after the earthquake struck.
Karam Al-Masri / DEC / Arete

When the shaking stopped, my family and I decided to leave the building and escape the city to an open field to avoid being near collapsing buildings. The next day we travelled back to my house to see what damage was done. Thankfully there wasn’t too much, only a few cracks on the walls, but we don’t feel safe staying there as we don’t know when the next earthquake might happen. I don’t think my building is stable enough to withstand another big earthquake.

A man after being rescued from the rubble of a destroyed building caused by the earthquake in Syria.
Karam Al-Masri / DEC / Arete

Since the earthquake, I have spent a lot of time photographing the rescue and relief efforts going on across northwest Syria. The Syrian people are very resilient, and after the first earthquake it was incredible to see everyone come together to try to help free the people that were trapped under the rubble. One volunteer said that he saw miracles happen, because when he was helping to free trapped and presumed-dead people, some of them came back to life.

A Darna team member speaks to children outside a tent in a makeshift camp in Syria.
Karam Al-Masri / DEC / Arete

Over the last month, thousands of aid workers have focused their efforts on providing help to the survivors of the earthquakes. However, despite their long hours and stressful working conditions, the aid workers were usually seen with smiles on their faces as they delivered aid. It also wasn’t unusual to see an aid worker sitting and speaking to children in the temporary camps.

A child sits on the ground and eats bread in Syria.
Karam Al-Masri / DEC / Arete

I have no words to describe how I am feeling at this moment. I keep thinking back to the first earthquake and seeing the streets littered with rubble from damaged buildings. It could’ve easily been my building laying in pieces on the streets or my family and I trapped under rubble. My family and I are currently sleeping in my car because we were unable to find a tent because they are all sold out. We are too scared to sleep in our home – it could collapse at any time either because of another earthquake or because of the damage from the previous earthquakes.

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