‘Reminiscent of a warzone’: Syrian doctor describes situation in hospital overwhelmed by earthquake

A doctor in an earthquake-stricken region of northern Syria described the hospital he was working at as “reminiscent of a warzone”.

Frantic efforts to rescue hundreds trapped under rubble are continuing after a huge earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and northern Syria early on Monday, killing more than 3,500.

Dr Osama Sallom, of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), is working at the Bab Al Hawa Hospital, which has received over 400 casualties and reported over 50 deaths.

“Most of the patients are children who are bleeding and dying from the cold [after being stuck under debris],” Dr Sallom said.

“We are looking under the rubble, but it’s very cold. It’ll be -1 or -2C for rescue teams working overnight.

“We receive more and more patients every hour and our hospital is overwhelmed with patients filling the hallways.”

Dr Sallom said there is a “huge lack of staff and equipment” at the hospital and all the wards were occupied by patients, mainly women and children.

“All our beds are full – people are having to lie on the ground. After a few hours we will have no space left on the ground,” he said.

“It’s reminiscent of a warzone – it’s giving many people traumatic memories.

“Every moment I hear ambulances come in with more casualties. The chance to save people goes down every hour.”

SAMS responded to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Syria, Turkey, and the region of Atareb, where the hospital is located, on Monday morning.

Dr Sallom said the border was completely closed and patients could not be referred to Turkey, which has put a lot of strain on the hospital he is working in.

He said: “We have to deal with complicated injuries ourselves – we only have one CT scanner and we don’t have specialist equipment. There’s a huge need for the CT scan, but [patients] have to wait three or four hours for a scan.”

He also spoke of the continuous aftershocks which came along “every five minutes” and were “very strong”.

He added: “It’s catastrophic and we are afraid ourselves. My friend, the manager of the hospital, lost his family while my wife and child are in Turkey.”

‘I’m so sad’

The situation reminded Dr Sallom of the Aleppo bombings in 2016 which destroyed hospitals, houses and killed hundreds of civilians.

He said: “I’m so sad – this incident is worse for Syrians because we have lived a lot of years as a war-torn country.

“Now we have the same feeling.

“We are losing hope to rescue children because of a huge need for consumables and medication which will run out in the coming hours.”

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