Ramez Al-Jassem lost ten loved ones in the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey on Monday morning. Al-Jassem found out from afar that his cousin, her husband, and eight of their children had been killed in the earthquake, he lived in Prince Edward County, about 65 kilometres west of Kingston, Ontario.
“Some people have been hearing their families under the houses and they can’t do anything, just dig with their hands,”
Al-Jassem said on CBC’s Ontario Morning. With nearly 20,000 verified deaths as of Friday, the 7.8-magnitude quake is the deadliest in over a decade. The Canadian government has promised to double donations to the Canadian Red Cross for earthquake relief, up to a total of $10 million.
Al-Jassem said his family’s story is indicative of how the earthquake is hitting smaller towns, but that international relief has so far focused on large cities.
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“They forgot about the towns, and people think it’s all full of rubble,”
“But no, it’s full of children.”
Building Fell Directly on Their House
According to Al-Jassem, the reason his family lost so many people is that a massive building collapsed “directly on their house.” Due to the ongoing civil conflict in the area of the country occupied by the rebels and the shortage of digging equipment and medical supplies, his cousin’s brother had to dig the family out by hand.
Only one youngster, a 12-year-old boy with a shattered leg, made it out of the ordeal alive. His extended family has been sleeping outside on mattresses in fields and on roads since the earthquake, for fear that additional buildings could collapse.
“They’ve been suffering since the day it happened,”
Although Al-Jassem fled to Canada from the Syrian civil war, he now wishes he could go back and help in any way he can. He expressed optimism that relief organizations will soon figure out how to better assist rural communities.
“They’re human beings too,”
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