'We have nothing left': Torrential rains wreck refugee camps in northern Syria

'We have nothing left': Torrential rains wreck refugee camps in northern Syria
Winter conditions for Syria's internally displaced have become more dire as days of heavy rainfall cause severe flooding, washing away tents and spoiling food supplies as temperatures drop below zero.
3 min read
28 December, 2018
Atme Camp near the Turkish border has been devastated by the flooding [Getty]
Camps for displaced Syrians in the north of the country have been inundated by days of severe rainfall, washing away hundreds of tents and causing living conditions to worsen even further, aid groups have said, as residents pleaded for help.

"On December 26... hundreds of tents were washed away in Atme, Dana, Sarmada and Qah in the northern countryside of Idlib," the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations said in a statement Thursday.

"Many shelters, food and water stocks were ruined by flooding," it said.

In the Omar camp in the town of Atme near the Turkish border, two days of heavy rain flooded flimsy plastic tents and turned nearby fields into pools of mud, according to an  AFP correspondent, who visited the area on Thursday.

Residents of the makeshift homes said the deluge destroyed their few belongings, including bedding, leaving them with nothing as temperatures plunged below zero.

"My tent has been flooded and the waters have carried away the mattresses and the carpets we used to sleep on," said Umm Adi, a widow and mother of four, who had sought refuge from the seven-year conflict in Omar camp.

A family try and salvage some belongings in Atme Camp,
Idlib [Getty]

"Even the spoons and the food are gone," she said.

"Everything was lost in the floods. We have nothing left."

Tens of thousands of displaced Syrians in the north of the country depend on handouts from humanitarian aid groups, including food, blankets and heating fuel, to survive the cold winter climate.

Since 2011, Syria's war has killed more than 360,00 people and caused more than half the country's population to flee their homes. Fighting around Idlib province in recent months triggered more waves of thousands of people fleeing north towards the border, where camps were overpopulated and resources stretched.

Firas al-Modhi, 18, who fled the town of Halfaya in the central Hama province, also saw his family's tent in Omar camp destroyed by the downpour.

"The rain and the water submerged our tent. Everything is wet. We don't have a blanket left," he said.

With temperatures of zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) there was little to help him and his family stay warm, he said.

"We appeal to aid groups to help us," the young man said.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, a France-based coalition of non-governmental organisations, also urged the international community and aid agencies "to release emergency funding" for those stricken by the floods.

"People living in camps in northern Syria are facing difficult humanitarian conditions... The displaced people are humbly asking for help," it said in its statement.

It said rescuers were trying to assess the needs of the displaced and provide those affected by the bad weather with food aid.

Displaced Syrians in the north whose camps have been flooded are in need of "adequate shelter, heating, clothing, water and food," it added.

Groups also fear spreading of diseases due to the flooding, which may contain sewage and contaminated water.

The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, posted pictures of the flooding, including a four-storey building in Kafar Hamr, Aleppo, that had collapsed.

Live Updates from Syria, a Facebook page run by activists, also published posts showing the extent of the flood's destruction, including a video of camp residents and children attempting to cross through a flood with a strong current.

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