Flooding brings new horrors to displaced: ‘This doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for life’


March 17, 2016

 Internally displaced children overlook a stream swollen by three days of heavy rains in the Khirbet a-Joz area of northern Idlib. Photo courtesy of Ali Adra.

Three days of heavy rain and wind that began this past Monday overturned and flooded tents in several camps for internally displaced Syrians in the north Idlib countryside this week, leaving thousands of residents “exposed to the elements for two days,” an activist in the province told Syria Direct Thursday. 

“Some people were exposed to the elements for two days,” Ali Adra, an activist currently in the north Idlib countryside who visited the affected camps this week told Syria Direct on Thursday. “They didn’t sleep that whole time.”

This week’s rainfall hit camps in the Khirbet a-Joz area near the closed Turkish border with the north Idlib countryside particularly hard because they lie on low ground. When the rains came, water washed down the surrounding slopes and pooled around the makeshift residences, bringing mud and water inside, overturning tents and causing a nearby stream to jump its banks. 

“The children were freezing and our tent collapsed in on us,” said one camp resident, a father of eight, describing the storm in a video Adra provided to Syria Direct on Thursday. “Everything we own is soaked in water.”

 Civil Defense personnel repair a stream crossing in the Ansar camp in north Idlib’s Khirbet a-Joz region on Wednesday as camp residents look on. Photo courtesy of Ali Adra. 

The displaced people living in the Khirbet a-Joz camps are originally from Latakia province, which borders rebel-held Idlib to the west. They previously fled fighting between rebels and regime forces backed by Russian ground and air bombardment.

“After the regime’s advance and the bombardment of the camps, there aren’t any precise statistics on the number of people here,” Adra told Syria Direct. Recent estimates put the number at thousands.

Hundreds of residents of the Ansar camp were trapped for more than 24 hours this week when floodwaters swept away a makeshift bridge connecting their north Idlib camp to neighboring villages that they rely upon to buy food, water and other goods.

Dozens of displaced people standing on the muddy bank of a stream swollen by days of rain watch as Idlib Civil Defense personnel use heavy machinery to repair the crossing on Wednesday, in images Adra gave Syria Direct.

“All of their clothes and their tents are soaked, filled with water and mud,” Adra told Syria Direct, adding a layer of misery to an already desperate situation in the border camps, many of which are overcrowded and lack basic services.

“We have no bathrooms,” says the displaced father of eight who Adra filmed in Ansar. “We’d made makeshift outhouses, but when the rain came everything flew away and now there’s nowhere.”

 A collapsed tent in Khirbet a-Joz after three days of rain on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Ali Adra.

“There is no place to rest,” said another resident of the same camp on Wednesday. “If we stayed under the bombs it would be more honorable than being trapped in this horror.”

While some charitable organizations provide material assistance to the camps on the closed Turkish border, deliveries of aid are few and far between.

 “Some prefer death to survival under these conditions,” Adra told Syria Direct after visiting the camps.

“There is huge suffering. This doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for life.” 

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