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'I can't sleep': Syrian sisters living in St. John's watch earthquake rescue efforts abroad

Jamila and Safa Nahat are watching their home country closely after a devastating earthquake killed 11,000 in Turkey and northern Syria.  (CBC - image credit)
Jamila and Safa Nahat are watching their home country closely after a devastating earthquake killed 11,000 in Turkey and northern Syria. (CBC - image credit)
CBC
CBC

The effects of an earthquake that left 11,000 dead in Turkey and northern Syria are being felt thousands of kilometres away in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The race continues for rescue crews in search of survivors after the devastating natural disaster on Monday. That death toll is expected to continue climbing as rescuers dig through rubble.

The shocking footage was difficult to watch, said both Safa and Jamila Nahat — sisters from Syria who have been living in St. John's with their father for the last eight years.

The Nahats told CBC News they have friends and family in the area hit hardest, which was northwest Syria in Aleppo. They said their family members are OK.

"It's very hard. Yesterday I was shown all the pictures but they say we don't have internet or power to share more pictures or videos," Jamila Nahat said.

"Really, I can't sleep. I have headaches. I think it's very hard."

Syria has dealt with a long list of challenges over the last decade, facing war and poverty while residents flee for safety.

Monday's earthquake on top of that makes for a hard road forward, Jamila Nahat said.

"Just in their mind, every day they're reminded. It's hard to them," she said.

What's more, it's winter in Syria and finding refuge is difficult among the destruction.

Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press
Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press

"They don't have anywhere to live. No house, no place to go and it's cold," Safa Nahat said.

"There's no places to save them and some people are still outside of the houses because their family or friends are still under the building. They're waiting for them because they want to know if they're still alive or dead."

Both sisters want to see more help from other countries in terms of aid and resources. They said there's a lack of heavy equipment available to help rescuers dig further into the rubble and debris.

Canada is providing $10 million in aid to both Turkey and Syria and is also looking to deploy medical and rescue teams. The country is waiting to receive an assessment from United Nations disaster response teams in the region.

"We'd [like] for someone to get them what they need and get all the machines that they want, to get all the people that are under the buildings and to make it easier," said Safa Nahat.

"If someone helped them and someone came it would be easy. Right now they're by themselves, they're working by hand, they need something more."

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