Syria doctor says scale of injuries from earthquake is more devastating than war

Syria doctor says scale of injuries from earthquake is more devastating than war
3 min read
09 February, 2023
The scale of destruction and injuries caused by Monday's powerful earthquake has added to Syria's woes but some say it's worse than years of conflict.
Hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured civilians pouring in [Getty]

Doctor Mohamad Zitoun spent years treating casualties from the Syrian war but has never experienced anything like the number of injuries he experienced following Monday's devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria.

"This is a huge calamity. I lived through shelling and survived massacres. This is totally different, terrifying, and horrific," said the 34-year-old surgeon from Aleppo, who has worked round the clock since the earthquakes at a hospital in Bab Al-Hawa near Syria's border with Turkey.

The hospital is in the opposition-held enclave of northwest Syria, an area that bore the brunt of bombing by Russia and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad during the country's conflict which killed hundreds of thousands.

Idlib has been one of the worst-hit areas and has become heavily populated due to the millions who have fled from other areas of Syria to the opposition enclave.

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"The first massive wave of patients surpassed the ability of any medical team," said the surgeon.

The outpatient clinic was turned into a ward and mattresses were laid on the floor as the rooms filled with victims and despairing family members.

"Cases arriving for treatment from shelling and aerial bombing would come one after the other in small waves," recalled Zitoun. But the earthquake has seen 500 victims brought in each day, requiring dozens of operations.

Medics have rushed to treat whole families brought to the hospital with head injuries, multiple fractures, spinal cord breaks, organ failure, and severe crush injuries.

"Many of the injured die within an hour or two as a result of trauma shock, heart failure, or bleeding, especially since the weather is cold and they would have been under the rubble for eleven or twelve hours," he added.

In some hospitals across the devastated region, courtyards have been turned into makeshift morgues where the dead are laid out in rows of body bags and people search for their relatives.

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The earthquake wiped out whole families and neighbourhoods. In the nearby town of Besnaya 150 families died and in the town of Jandaris over 89 buildings collapsed with hundreds killed.

Zitoun said the hospital's emergency teams were running out of antibiotics, sedatives, surgical supplies, blood bags, bandages, and drips, with the border to Turkey inaccessible.

Supplies in hospitals across the area may not last more than a week with few stocks of medicines having arrived in recent months and a desperate need for the resumption of aid flows from across the border to Turkey, where there is also widespread devastation, including the Turkish city of Hatay.

"It's a humanitarian catastrophe on both sides," he added.

(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)