Nasser al-Waqaa protected his family through years of warfare, bombing, and airstrikes until an earthquake that struck their home in Jandaris in northwestern Syria on Monday collapsed the building and buried his wife and most of his family under masonry.
During the night, rescuers rescued his two children alive from the rubble. The video shows them bruised and covered in dust. Another child survived. However, his wife and at least five children were killed.
He sat among the ruined houses, surrounded by crumbled concrete and twisted metal, mourning the loss, holding his baby clothes tightly to his face. In desperation and confusion, he names the children a boy and a girl without telling them how many he has.
“The house was shaking. We were used to air raids. We were used to rockets and barrel bombs. This is normal for us. But earthquakes are natural disasters,” he said. I just want one of my children,” he said.
Natural disasters have killed more than 21,000 people, mostly in Turkey, but more than 3,000 in Syria. In his hometown of Zandaris, many houses were destroyed and others partially destroyed in a rebel-held enclave across the Turkish border. Rescuers and locals, sometimes assisted by mechanical excavators, dug through the ruins in search of survivors.
In another part of the city, rescuers rescued 5-year-old Ahmed Abduljabbar, the sole survivor of a family of six. His adult cousin Ahmed Abu Shehab spent hours lifting broken bricks to reach him before he was transported in an ambulance.
In a hospital bed near the city of Azaz, the boy said:
The imam who leads Friday prayers at the Zandaris Mosque struggled to hold back tears during his sermon. Damascus government and one of the areas hardest hit by Monday’s earthquake After the earthquake, Waqaa called several of his sons after learning that two boys, Faisal and Mohsin, had both died.
His eldest daughter Heba was also found dead on her knees with her sister Isra. Another sister, Samiha, was found dead nearby.
Vaka squeezed a piece of paper in his hand that he had found in a notebook buried in the rubble. In neat handwriting, she addressed her father, “You are in the hands of God and my heart, Abu Faisal.” An ink heart lies nearby.
At the cemetery, Vakaa watched with sadness as grave diggers lowered the body of one of his children, wrapped in white, into a common grave with other victims of the elements.