Shielded from 12 years of civil war, the small northwest Syrian town of Al-Tloul near the Turkish border has been devastated by Monday’s huge earthquake and ensuing flooding that has pushed out nearly all of its inhabitants, residents said.
Three residents told Reuters the earthquake killed between 35 to 40 people and left most buildings either destroyed or damaged in the small town that hugs the border, separated from Turkey only by the Orontes river.
Following the quake, locals discovered cracks in a small dam nearby and attempted to fortify it with sandbags, Al-Tloul resident Abdelrahmen al-Jassim said.
But heavy rains over the past week, which have also impeded earthquake relief efforts across the region, swelled the river.
As the call to prayer went out around 4 a.m. on Wednesday, the dam gave way and the flooding came, al-Jassim said, covering fields and filling homes with knee-high murky brown water.
“Women and children are now staying under the olive trees without anything. And who can you ask (for help)? Everyone is devastated. God help us,” he said.
The earthquake has killed more than 3,200 people in Syria, nearly 2,000 of whom resided in the country’s northwest that already faced a humanitarian crisis after years of isolation and bombardment by the Syrian government and its allies.
Almost no outside help has come to the northwest since the earthquake, with the first U.N. aid convoy comprised of six trucks entering Thursday morning.
This stands in stark contrast with a massive international relief effort in neighboring Turkey.
In Al-Tloul, people said they had been left to fend for themselves, save for when rescue workers came after the tremor to remove survivors and the dead from the rubble.
Firas Aziz Hawash, a longtime resident of the town, said that some 500 families had been displaced by the flooding.
“The water is in the homes now, there is no one left in the town,” he said. “You cant live there anymore. It’s a tragedy.”