A SYRIAN refugee from Enniskillen is fearing for his loved ones after the deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria that killed thousands and left many more injured.
Ali Swidani, pictured, has desperately been trying to get in touch with his sister Amarea and her family who live near the Turkish region of Gaziantep where the quake struck on Monday.
“I’m in shock. I feel helpless and lost. My sister and her family are living in this region and I have not been able to contact them,” Mr Swidani, 40, said.
“I’ve spoken to my relatives in Syria and they have not been able to contact them either.”
Mr Swidani’s sister Amarea, her husband Mohammad Alawad, and children Yahea, 18, Sham, 16, and Ahmad, 14, moved to Turkey from Syria eight years ago as refugees.
“They had been moving from house to house in Marash [a city in southern Turkey]. Last month, they told me they were moving to an area near Gaziantep where the earthquake happened,” he explained.
“It’s a catastrophe. The whole region is cut off now. It’s very worrying. All I can do is wait and pray that they are safe.”
Monday’s quake wreaked havoc hundreds of kilometres from its epicentre in Gaziantep, south-eastern Turkey, with dozens of aftershocks, as well as a second strong quake 60 miles away that hit in the early afternoon.
Rescuers in Turkey and war-ravaged Syria are still working to pull more survivors from the rubble after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 21,000 people and toppled thousands of buildings across a wide region. Numbers are expected to rise because of so many still trapped in the rubble.
The population of the poverty-stricken region was already suffering great hardships long before the earthquake.
“The people living there have a hard life. They haven’t enough food, clean water, electricity or medication,” Mr Swidani said.
“Diseases are everywhere and there’s no infrastructure at all. This earthquake now makes it 100 times worse.
“Victims will have to fight to survive. Many will suffer and die because there are no [medical] facilities. There is a shortage of everything. It breaks my heart to see this.”
When Mr Swidani, who is originally from Damascus, first arrived in Enniskillen four years ago with his family from Syria, he knew no one and spoke very little English.
Today he plays an important role in helping Syrian refugees integrate into the local community.
He volunteers as a translator for ERANO, a refugee and newcomers support organisation based in Omagh with outreach clinics in Fermanagh, and is also a student at Enniskillen’s South West College where he is studying an advanced English course.
“I hope to hear something about my sister and her family soon, and that it will be good news,” Mr Swidani said.
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