A violent 7.8 magnitude earthquake, with its epicentre between Turkey and Syria, has caused more than 5.000 deaths and enormous damage to the infrastructure. The areas hit are in the south-eastern part of Turkey and the north-western regions of Syria. The number of the quake’s victims is still temporary with the figure estimated to grow as the rescuers work even more intensely in the next few hours.
Aleppo: the testimony of Fr. Bahjat Karakach
It never rains but it pours in Aleppo (Syria), where the population, already suffering from the war and its terrible consequences, was traumatically woken up in the middle of the night by the violent tremors of an earthquake. In the Latin parish of the city, the Franciscan priest Fr. Bahjat Karakach, ofm, has told us how his community were taken by surprise: "We were woken up at about 4 in the morning by a very strong tremor; we went down into the streets and we found many people fleeing from their homes, obviously in total darkness because there was no power. This earthquake was fairly strong. We’ve heard that in Aleppo at least forty buildings have collapsed andmany people are still trapped under the rubble. There are definitely victims…"
From the very first hours of this morning, the friars opened the doors of their convent to the inhabitants seeking help: "We have taken people into the church here, from this morning, then we celebrated mass and opened the hall to accommodate the people and give them all something to eat; our kitchen, which usually distributes 1,200 meals a day to the poor, willdo its utmost today to help everyone who is homeless and cannot eat."
After containing the emergency at the most crucial time, Father Bahjat had a thought for his brothers in other parts of Syria which have also been hit by last night’s quake: "The damage is not just in the city of Aleppo, there’s damage in the north as well, in the villages where our Franciscan brothers are, in Qnaye, Latakia andAl Yacoubiya."
Lastly, an appeal for a quicker and more efficient rebuilding of Aleppo and the country: "We are asking you for your help and support, but most importantly we are launching an appeal for the sanctions on Syria to be lifted, so that we can rebuild and help all those in need."
At this very moment, the Custody of the Holy Land, through the NGO Pro Terra Sancta, is working to start an extraordinary fundraising campaign to support the Christians of Syria.
Filippo De Grazia
Photo credit: Giacomo Pizzi - Pro Terra Sancta