Photos: Fearing aftershocks, families in NW Syria sleep in tents

Idlib, Syria – Hundreds of Syrian families whose homes were destroyed or damaged when devastating earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria this month are sleeping in tents or in public spaces in harsh winter conditions in rebel-held northwestern Syria.

Many buildings in the region collapsed, and other infrastructure buckled in the February 6 quakes, which killed tens of thousands of people in Turkey. More than 4,500 people were killed in rebel-held Syria, according to the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.

Two weeks later, magnitude 6.3 and 5.8 earthquakes hit southern Turkey and were felt across the border in Syria. At least six people were killed and more than 200 were injured in Turkey while the White Helmets said more than 100 people were injured in northwestern Syria.

Fearful of more earthquakes, Syrian families in the war-torn region have resorted to sleeping in trucks, tents and open spaces despite the harsh weather.

“It’s very cold, but we have nowhere to go,” said Abdullah al-Tuwainy, a man who has been living with his family at a tent site since the earthquakes struck. “There’s no way we can return to our home. It’s destroyed.”

Pointing at a tent set up on the side of a road, Ahmed Ghafir said, “We are living on the street now. I have a 17-year-old disabled child. If another tremor struck and we were in our home, we’d all be gone by the time we carry her down the stairs of our building.”

Abdelmone’im Asaad, a father of seven, shares an open space with more than 50 other families without shelter.

“We set up the kids in the cars, and the rest of us spend the night out on the pavements with some bedsheets,” he said. “We’re shivering from the cold.”

Although Abdul Moe’in Zahra’s home is damaged but liveable, he is afraid to return for fear of another tremor. “It’s safer to spend our nights out here,” he told Al Jazeera.

Grandmother Um Salim told Al Jazeera that the weather has been terrible. “It’s freezing cold, and the rain has been non-stop, but we don’t dare return home,” she said. “We’re just out here in the park all day.”

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