April 6, 2023

Syria earthquake: an update from the White Helmets

This is an update from the head of the White Helmets, Raed al-Saleh

It’s been two months since the earthquake took over 5,900 lives in Syria and destroyed the little we have here in the northwest. Our volunteers did everything they could to pull every life possible from under the rubble of collapsed buildings – and in the darkest of moments, the generosity of over 100,000 people around the world kept us going. On behalf of 3,000 members of the White Helmets, I thank all these people for their incredible solidarity.

I wanted to take a moment to update everyone about our ongoing earthquake response, which is only possible thanks to your generous support. Our teams saved almost 3,000 people after the earthquake, recovered the bodies of 2,170 people from collapsed buildings, and provided emergency health services to more than 14,000 people.

Many in northwest Syria welcomed Ramadan, a month where families come together, with a heavy heart. 55,000 families have been displaced by the earthquake and they now face daily fears and anxiety as they try to adapt to life in tents without even the most basic necessities amidst freezing temperatures. Our volunteers have levelled 146,000 square metres of land to establish new camps and shelters.

Over 2,000 buildings across northwest Syria were damaged by the earthquake, including 20 hospitals, 35 healthcare centres and 36 schools. We are prioritising clearing and securing public facilities, including schools.

As we clear the rubble, the scale of the tragedy continues to unfold. Last week, we found 3-year-old Muhammad al-Qadi, whose three family members had also died meaning he was not reported missing by anyone. We have now removed more than 140,000 cubic metres of rubble and opened more than 50 km of road.

While we respond to the worst humanitarian crisis our region has experienced in recent memory, bombings of civilians by the Syrian regime and Russia have not stopped. Our search-and-rescue teams are responding to every attack but we are outraged by the lack of international attention to these attacks which are severely undermining the humanitarian efforts.

The work to rehabilitate northwest Syria is daunting. The devastation caused by the earthquake added another layer of suffering after 12 years of conflict and crimes against humanity committed with impunity against the Syrian people. As we reflect on the months of hardship ahead of us, your support powers all of the volunteers here forwards, guided by our motto taken from the Quran: “To save a life is to save all of humanity”.

You can read Raed’s previous earthquake response update here.