April 2, 2023

Harem, Syria When rescuers pulled all 5 members of the al-Sayed household from underneath the rubble of their quake-damaged condominium constructing in northwest Syria this month, it was a uncommon second of pleasure.

The rescue occurred two days after the devastating 7.6 and seven.4 magnitude quakes struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6, killing greater than 50,000 individuals in each international locations.

A whole lot of individuals witnessed the rescue in particular person in Besnaya-Bseineh, a city within the Harem district on the Turkish border, and hundreds extra have seen the dramatic video footage on-line. It exhibits volunteers from the Syrian Civil Protection pulling out Mustafa al-Sayed, his spouse, Duaa, and their three youngsters, Maryam, Zuheir and Ilaf.

Within the video, the air is crammed with the sounds of individuals yelling and cheering excitedly, their hoarse voices praising God as volunteers retrieved the household one after the other.

“Seeing the variety of individuals exterior who had been concerned in rescue operations, … it was such a joyful feeling, understanding that there are nonetheless good individuals on this world prepared to threat all the pieces to avoid wasting a life,” 33-year-old Mustafa stated. “I bear in mind smiling as soon as I noticed the sky once more.”

The al-Sayeds lived on the primary ground of a four-story condominium complicated that had 170 items housing greater than 700 individuals.

When the primary quake struck at 4:17am [01:17 GMT], Mustafa and Duaa had been jolted awake. They bought up from mattress to examine on their three youngsters sleeping within the adjoining room, however in these 30 seconds, the constructing collapsed, plunging them into darkness.

“I began shouting, calling for my spouse. Thank God she answered me,” Mustafa recounted. “We each began screaming our youngsters’s names, hoping they had been alive and close to us. Maryam, my six-year-old, was the primary to reply, and I can not start to clarify how completely satisfied that made me to listen to her voice.”

He then known as out for his five-year-old son, Zuheir.

“I shouted, ‘Zuheir, my love, … are you able to hear me?’ He additionally replied. I known as out for Ilaf, my three-year-old. ‘The place are you, Ilaf?’ Then I heard her tiny voice replying, ‘I am right here, baba’. She was mendacity beneath her siblings.

Relieved that his youngsters had been alive and close by, Mustafa then known as out for his brother Mohammed, his mom and two sisters.

It was solely after he spent 4 days within the hospital after his rescue that he came upon they didn’t survive.

He later realized that the overwhelming majority of the residents dwelling in the identical constructing – about 600 individuals – had been killed.

“My associates and neighbors within the constructing … total familiesGone,” he stated.

Zuheir, Ilaf and Maryam al-Sayed playing in a field
Zuheir, Ilaf and Maryam al-Sayed and their dad and mom spent 40 hours underneath the rubble in Besnaya-Bseineh in northwest Syria [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

The al-Sayeds spent 40 hours underneath the rubble, trapped beneath the concrete and metal. Mustafa describes the expertise as like being inside a coffin.

“My spouse and kids would sleep and get up, however the entire time, I stayed acutely aware, attempting to listen to any sound of individuals above us, anybody who might hear us,” he stated. “I attempted to make noise by repeatedly hitting a rock on the rubble, but it surely disintegrated in my hand.”

He tried to distract the kids, who complained that they had been hungry and thirsty.

“I informed them to recite their prayers and to sleep. I had no thought whether or not it was night time or day. After they would get up, I’d ask every of them to recite what they’d memorized from the Quran.”

Mustafa stated he did not really feel the passage of time. As hours glided by, he tried to succeed in his youngsters, getting nearer till his fingers managed to wrap round Ilaf’s hair.

“I could not transfer my legs, however my arms had been free,” he stated. “I acknowledged Maryam after I grabbed her lengthy hair. The youngsters had been caught, so I started taking bits and items of the rubble that had been on high of them and placing it over myself. I needed them to dwell. Maryam broke her leg as a result of it was caught between the metal rods, however she by no means cried.”

Maryam al-Sayed's long hair
Maryam al-Sayed’s father acknowledged her by her lengthy hair whereas they had been buried in darkness underneath the rubble [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

Ilaf interrupts her father.

“My dad and mom had been screaming for individuals to avoid wasting us. They had been very loud, and it bothered me,” she stated. “I used to be chilly. However once I bought out, I noticed the sunshine! Everybody was cheering for me. … They rescued Maryam first, then Zuheir, then me, then my mom, then my father.”

This wasn’t Mustafa’s first time trapped underneath rubble. A number of years in the past, when he was in his hometown of Maarat al-Numan, which can be in Idlib province, a Syrian regime aircraft focused a two-story constructing he was in with associates. He was rescued three hours later.

“This time, together with your spouse and kids, it was rather more terrifying,” he stated.

The household at the moment are homeless. Duaa and the kids are staying along with her aspect of the household whereas Mustafa and his father are sleeping of their automobile in Salqeen.

The United Nations estimates 8.8 million individuals have been affected by the quakes in Syria and stated greater than 5,800 Syrians have been killed.

In line with Syria’s Civil Protection, 2,274 individuals died within the opposition-held northwest and greater than 12,400 had been injured.

Mustafa worries how a lot his youngsters can be affected by the expertise of being buried alive for nearly two days.

“Maryam nonetheless suffers psychologically,” he stated. “I took her to see the rubble of our constructing, and she or he turned bodily unwell. We’re all traumatised. If I enter a spot with a roof above me, I lose feeling in my legs.

He says that after witnessing the destruction on the constructing the place his household lived, his relations had ready headstones.

“They thought it was unimaginable that anybody might survive that,” he stated. “It is actually a miracle.”

Mustafa al-Sayed and his son Zuheir
Mustafa al-Sayed and his son, Zuheir [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeeera]

Extra reporting by Linah Alsaafin.

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