Syrian student in Belfast says family back home 'terrified' over earthquake aftershock threat

Usama Dandoush's parents and siblings are in Syria, where he says people are sleeping in their cars over fears of further tremors and collapsing buildings.

A Syrian man in Northern Ireland says his family is "terrified" of aftershocks following devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey that have left over 6,200 dead and tens of thousands injured.

Usama Dandoush is a medical student living in Belfast.

He has looked on in horror at the news as it emerged a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and relentless aftershocks flattened huge areas in the two countries.

A map shows the earthquakes' epicentres. Credit: PA Graphic

Mr Dandoush's parents and siblings are in his motherland, where he says people are sleeping in their cars over fears of further tremors and collapsing buildings after.

"They are afraid of the aftershocks," said Mr Dandoush.

"They are actually terrified because they are sleeping in cars, they don't want to stay in houses that might collapse because of the earthquake.

"It's really devastating and heartbreaking but contacting family on social media is reassuring us that they are ok. It's a relief to us.

"There's nothing we can do - it's something 'divine'."

Turkey's disaster management agency said more than 24,400 emergency personnel were now on the ground, while teams of rescue workers from nearly 30 countries have been sent to Turkey or Syria.

The United Nations (UN) said it was "exploring all avenues" to get supplies to rebel-held northwestern Syria, where millions live in extreme poverty and rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

The country has been wartorn for a decade.

He accepts that he is one of the lucky ones and said he hopes the world is generous to his home country and Turkey at this time.

Mr Dandoush said: "We could help at some time like people are now homeless, they need refuge, shelter, they need food to eat, anything people can contribute that is a small help.

"There are lots of people donating and I would ask everyone to donate to the poor people who have been in this catastrophe.

"We are lucky that it hasn't happened here so we should try to help."

Some NI locals are already trying to help

As rescue teams search the rubble for signs of life, specialist Co. Down rescue dog Floss is on standby to go over and join the operation.

Raph O'Connor is a handler with the Search and Rescue Dogs Association of Ireland North.

He is braced to go over with Floss to assist when they get the call.

Mr O'Connor said: "Her role is to find any live scent.

"She is trying to find trapped people under rubble so when she indicated signs of life, we will put a second dog in - Michael with Bodie - and then the firemen with the heavy lifting gear will be brought in to help extract any live casualties.

"In SARDA Ireland North, we have a track record of being abroad at previous earthquakes and we just want to help people restore families and help find those people that are missing so the sooner we can do that... the better.

"It's about just providing some help to those people in great distress at the minute."

How to help:

The best way to help victims and survivors is to donate through reputable charities.

  • Red Cross - The Turkish Red Crescent has teams in more than 10 regions across the country, while the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is delivering assistance and support to those in need in the regions of Hama, Aleppo and Lattakia giving emergency first aid and evacuating people to safety. Donate here.

  • UNICEF - The charity is working to ensure water supply by setting up station, sanitation and food. Teams are also working to protect unaccompanied children and reunite those who have become separated from their families. Donate here.

  • Oxfam - Teams from the charity in Turkey and Syria are assessing, with partner organisations, how best to provide aid. The Turkish branch is working with around 80 women’s cooperatives in ten provinces most affected by the quake. Donate here.

  • Save the Children - The charity is prioritising children and their families, who have lost everything. It plans to give them what they need to survive, from thermal blankets, to meals and medical supplies. Donate here.

  • Islamic Relief - In Turkey, the teams are helping with emergency food, shelter and cash grants. In Syria, Islamic Relief will be providing health and medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, as well as blankets and tents for those made homeless. Donate here.

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