It took four days and nights after the earthquake for the rubble to fall silent here. The strongest voices belonged to the women, residents said. Parted from their children, or fighting to save them, they screamed until their lungs gave out.
In this forgotten pocket of rebel-held northwest Syria, there were no international rescue workers to save them. No aid shipments brought painkillers to the survivors when stocks ran low. Just six miles away, across the border in Turkey, thousands of tons of relief poured in; support teams from as far away as Taiwan answered the Turkish government’s call for help. But Syria, divided against itself and isolated from much of the world, was left to pick up the pieces alone, as it has again and again over more than a decade of war and dislocation.
In the shattered town of Jinderis, at least 850 bodies had been recovered by Friday morning. Although hundreds are still missing, few believed there were any lives left to save. “We needed help here, we asked for help here,” said the town’s mayor, Mahmoud Hafar. “It never came.”
On Friday, the Bab al-Salama border crossing into Syria was almost empty. A single ambulance with flashing lights was waiting to enter. The only Syrians crossing back were those being returned to their families in body bags.
On a rare visit to this Syrian enclave, controlled by Turkish-backed armed groups, The Washington Post found communities gripped by shock and bewilderment, and very much alone. In Jinderis, fathers stood watch over the remains of their homes and told of waking up to find their wives and children dead. As hulking excavators clawed the rubble, searching for a 13-year-old boy, a man asked reporters to help him contact the United Nations for help. “Maybe they don’t know what happened in Jinderis,” he said. “No one could see this and not come here.”
This part of Syria has endured crisis after crisis, home to millions of people who have braved war and displacement, hunger and disease. Even before the earthquake, 4.1 million here required humanitarian assistance. [Continue reading…]