Earthquake Turkey and Syria, bishop of Aleppo: “Apocalyptic situation”

Archbishop Antoine Audo: “Never seen anything like it”

“We were on the third floor, the fear was enormous and now all the people are in the street, in the cold and in the rain”. Monsignor Antoine Audo, bishop of Aleppo dei Caldei, says so in an interview with Vatican News. “We’re not used to this kind of event, it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this in Aleppo,” he said as the sirens of rescue cars sounded after the violent earthquake in southern Turkey, on the border with Syria.

“Tonight we will sleep at the entrance to the bishopric or elsewhere, we will see what to do. There is – he repeats – great fear, there is damage everywhere, even in the cathedral. Libraries are destroyed, houses collapsed: it is an apocalyptic situation”. The bishop tells of other people who managed to save themselves, despite “half of their buildings having collapsed”.

While he’s on the phone, he’s going to see the situation. “Many people are in the car, everyone has cell phones in their hands and are trying to communicate. The situation is very sad and now we need emergency vehicles, electricity. This is the problem”, she concludes.

PIZZI (PRO TERRA SANCTA): “IN 200 IN THE CONVENT IN ALEPPO, THERE IS NO FOOD” – ”Two hundred people fled their homes and took refuge in the Franciscan convent of Aleppo” in Syria, but some didn’t make it, there are entire families under the rubble of collapsed buildings. And we continue to dig, in the Syrian city heavily bombed in 2016 and now, again, collapsed under the shocks of last night’s powerful earthquake. Giacomo Pizzi, collaborator of the Pro Terra Sancta Association, tells Adnkronos that last night, ”at 4.15 local time”, he felt “a very strong shock that lasted an eternity. The time to turn on the light, make me realize what was happening, take something with me and go out. Truly an eternity”. Pizzi, who slept in the Franciscan convent of Azizieh, says that “the structure has held up very well, while the bell tower has suffered damage. Stones fell which caused further damage to other structures”.

The time to get out into the street and ”immediately, two minutes later, we were invaded by the families of the area who were looking for shelter here – says Pizzi – because unlike most houses, the convent has electricity”. Not a small difference in a night of fear and sleet, darkness and cold temperatures. ”They arrived in pajamas, with slippers on their feet, the children wrapped up in blankets. They told us that they felt the earth shaking, the walls crumbling in the dark, they were terrified”, explains Pizzi. ”We welcomed these people, no one wanted to sleep anymore. So we went to the safest part of the structure and distributed breakfast”, he continues. An ”improvised refuge was therefore set up in the convent hall, where catechism or after-school classes are usually held, and where there are now about two hundred people”. Among the Franciscans and the volunteers of the association ”no victims and so much fear”, explains Pizzi.

With the sun higher in the sky, ”there was a hint of returning to their homes, where some families reported cracks in the walls so deep that they could see what was happening on the street. Then there was a second shock, less strong and certainly shorter” which caused ”the families to return to the convent again and we also distributed lunch to them”. Now ”the local authorities have asked us to increase the food rations to be distributed, to supply another 500 meals to the population of Aleppo”, continues Pizzi recalling that the Pro Terra Sancta association ”manages a canteen with the Franciscans for poor for a long time. The biggest problem here, apart from light and heating, is that there is no gas in the houses for cooking”.

What has been implemented is ”an improvised and unstructured reception activity, waiting to verify the situation of the damage in the field and the possibility of helping other families”. The Franciscan convent where Pro Terra Sancta operates is located in the center of Aleppo, but the part most affected by the earthquake, adds Pizzi, is the eastern one ”where there is an important structural deficiency after the bombings suffered in 2016”. What is needed, as first aid, is ”food. But also blankets, because it’s raining and it’s really very cold, there’s no heating or light”. And this is why, Pizzi announces, that ”we will soon be launching a fundraiser and in the meantime we are collecting needs in the field”.