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Earthquake creates additional crises for Syrians amid civil war

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey on Monday also decimated much of northwest Syria. Between the government and rebel-held regions, it's estimated that at least 1,800 are dead in Syria, with many more injured.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This is a part of the world already caught up in a number of crises, including a devastating civil war that's been going for more than a decade. That reality makes it tough to reach people who've been affected by the earthquake, but there are some social media posts that offer a glimpse of the aftermath. Here's a first responder from the volunteer group the Syria Civil Defence, otherwise known as the White Helmets, on Twitter yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ISMAIL ALABDALLAH: Many buildings in different cities and villages in northwest Syria collapsed, destroyed by this earthquake. Our teams responded to all the sites and the buildings. And, still now, many families now are under the rubble.

SUMMERS: The White Helmets are also sharing videos of their rescue efforts, which have been underway for nearly two days straight. In this video, you see rescuers sawing through steel bars, shoveling crumbled concrete and digging through rubble in Jindires, north of Aleppo.

(CROSSTALK)

SUMMERS: In another, White Helmets pulled a family, including an infant alive, from the scattered heap of their home, also in Jindires.

(SOUNDBITE OF INFANT CRYING)

SHAPIRO: This man in Saraqib, Syria, told "Al Hadath Live" he lost his entire family.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AL HADATH LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Through interpreter) God, please grant me patience. I swear, my back has been broken.

SHAPIRO: My back has been broken is a commonly used phrase in Arabic. It expresses the enormity of losing one's family, one's support system. Here's another survivor echoing that sentiment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Through interpreter) This broke our back. I swear, it broke our back.

SUMMERS: Crews continue to pull people from the rubble, but the clock is ticking on the rescue efforts. And with the collapse of so much infrastructure, it can be hard for survivors to find shelter from the frigid winter weather.

SHAPIRO: What's more, the complex political situation and years of war in Syria make it difficult for aid groups to help. White Helmets head Raed Saleh spoke with USAID Chief Samantha Power earlier today and said international aid has yet to reach them. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.

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