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Turkey-Syria Quake: Syrian priest shares the 'horrors' of displaced relatives and lost loved ones

by Heather Preston

A Syrian-British priest has been speaking of the devastating impact of Monday's earthquake on his wider family.

Revd Nadim Nassar tells Premier that his relatives in Syria are living "in horror" as they come to terms with the loss of their homes and loved ones.

Following two powerful earthquakes on Monday, search and rescue workers have been racing against the clock to pull survivors from collapsed buildings in Turkey and Syria.

The number of deaths is rising rapidly, with more than 11-thousand now confirmed. The World Health Organisation says that figure could reach 20-thousand.

Nassar tells Premier he received a phone call from his niece in Syria shortly after the first quake.

"At two o'clock in the morning, I was asleep and the phone rang, and I looked, and I saw the name of my niece. When you have a telephone call at two o'clock in the morning from a member of the family, your heart just stops.

"She was crying and she said, Uncle Nadine, we have to leave home... I was really horrified. She said that 'the building is shaking. Things in the apartment fell down and broke, the glass shattered. Mom and I are having an earthquake.' And I was stunned.

"They have lived two days of horror because of the tremors, the shakes after the main earthquake continued for two days."

Nassar - who is the Executive Director and Founder of Christian humanitarian charity Awareness Foundation (AF) - said there were thousands of people on the streets, in freezing weather in the middle of the night, not sure if they should expect a tsunami following the tremor.

"I was in touch immediately with all the people I knew. And unfortunately, dear friends the doctor of my mom and her husband died instantly, the house collapsed on them.

"In Aleppo, our dear friend, a priest from the Melkite church, Imad also died instantly because of the collapse of the building.

"The family of a dear friend and my sister are still missing.

Nassar says his niece and sister have not slept for two nights and are huddling with neighbours with limited fuel, water and electricity. "The situation is dire," he says.

Sanctions on the country have delayed international aid reaching Syria following Monday's disaster. Nassar says AF were in a unique position to provide immediate support and connect with local churches on the ground.

"Because of the sanctions, it's very difficult to send help to Syria, but the Awareness Foundation - as Syrians - we are able to go to Syria. So we launched immediately and appealed for people to donate to us and we will take them personally to Syria. Because you cannot transfer money to Syria," he said.

"It's been the third day of horror and constantly on the phone, constantly on WhatsApp, constantly on the email to make sure that people are safe. But the injured also are not getting enough support in Syria because the hospitals are damaged and the situation is critical. Very critical."

On Wednesday the EU confirmed it will send €3.5m (£3.1m) in aid to Syria while planes loaded with 31 tonnes of supplies from India, Iran, UAE and Jordan arrived in Syria on Wednesday afternoon.

The UK government has announced plans to send £8 million in additional aid to Turkey and Syria, including "vital items" such as tents and blankets as well as a "world-class" team of medical professionals.


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