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East Aleppo ambulance driver on scale of devastation: ‘You’ve got no idea’

Pro-Assad forces are advancing on rebel-controlled east Aleppo city for […]

29 November 2016

Pro-Assad forces are advancing on rebel-controlled east Aleppo city for the fourth consecutive day on Tuesday, as regime and Russian warplanes pummel the provincial capital with hundreds of airstrikes and barrel bombs.

The two-week assault to capture the 250,000-person rebel stronghold has destroyed every functioning hospital in the eastern half of the city. Fewer than 10 ambulances are still operating, local sources tell Syria Direct, with the remainder either destroyed or out of fuel.

“It’s Armageddon out there,” says Jumaa Arab, the head of an east Aleppo ambulance crew. “In the past 15 minutes, more than 10 barrel bombs have fallen in the immediate vicinity, and it’s been going on all day long just like this.”

When Arab paused to discuss the city’s desperate humanitarian situation earlier today, he told Syria Direct’s Noura Hourani that he would have to be brief. After a few minutes, the conversation ended abruptly. Two barrel bombs just crashed meters away from his office.

“I’m sorry; I can’t continue this conversation right now,” he said. “I’ve got to go.” 

“Pray for us…”

Q: We’re hearing reports that there are fewer than 10 ambulances left in all of east Aleppo. Can you confirm this figure?

Look, I’ve got no idea. Nobody’s got any idea what’s going on. It’s Armageddon out there. Bombs are falling every single second, and people are literally dying in the streets.

Yes, I run an ambulance team. But, no, I don’t have an exact figure, and, frankly, I don’t give a damn about statistics right now. What I care about is saving lives. Those are the only numbers on my mind right now. So while I don’t have an exact figure for you, I can tell you that we’ll keep running until we use up every last drop of fuel.

 Aftermath of November 18 bombing of east Aleppo. Photo courtesy of the Aleppo Media Center.

Q: How much fuel do you have left?

I’ve got enough fuel for maybe 15 days. My crew has only got one ambulance still left running [the rest have been destroyed].

Q: Is there any chance that you can get fuel from elsewhere in the city?  

Ambulances in the city have virtually come to a complete standstill because of fuel shortages. Yes, the Civil Defense and a few other ambulance teams have a tiny bit more fuel left, but that’ll only last for a few days. Things are deteriorating on a daily basis. People say that the situation is catastrophic, that things are desperate, but that doesn’t do it justice. You’ve got no idea.

Q: Since the Russian and regime campaign to capture east Aleppo city intensified two weeks ago, every last hospital has been bombed. Where do you take the injured?

Unfortunately, you’re right…every single hospital has been bombed. We transport the injured to small medical centers that can provide little more than basic medical treatment. What does that mean? Well, if you’ve got a serious injury, it means that more likely than not, you are going to die. It’s up to God.

Q: The regime has been advancing in east Aleppo for four days straight now. Superlatives can seemingly no longer do justice in describing the agony and devastation that the regime and Russia are inflicting on Aleppo. Can you try to paint a picture of what today looks like in the rebel-controlled half of the city?

Right now, I’m in the al-Mashhad district. In the past 15 minutes, more than 10 barrel bombs have fallen in the immediate vicinity, and it’s been going on all day long just like this.

We’re driving the ambulance, but we can only move three people—at most—at a time. What can you do but to try to save as many lives as possible? We’ll move people to a medical center and then return to the scene of the attack. We do this as many times as possible. We keep fighting.

People are carrying the injured on their shoulders, in their arms and every which way they can. As the bombs continue to rain down, we’re racing against time, and we’ll keep working until the last breath that we take.

Right now, the warplanes are still overhead. Two barrel bombs just fell right next to me. I’m sorry; I can’t continue this conversation right now. I’ve got to go.

Pray for us….

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