Earthquake Causes Collapse of Hundreds of Buildings Across Syria
The earthquake that occurred at dawn on Monday, February 06, caused the total or partial collapse of thousands of buildings in Northwest Syria. The collapses were concentrated in parts of the governorates of Aleppo, Lattakia, and Idlib either controlled by the Syrian government, which controls most of Aleppo and all of the Lattakia governorates; the Syrian Salvation Government affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which controls most of the Idlib governorate; and the Turkish-backed Syrian Interim Government (SIG), which controls the northern countryside of Aleppo.
Here is a preliminary overview of the most affected areas.
In the opposition areas in northwestern Syria, the most affected areas were located in the border strip between Syria and Turkey, where the largest concentrations of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and their camps are spread. In the evening of February 07, the Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, estimated that 360 buildings entirely collapsed in northwestern Syria, killing 1,020 people. The White Helmets also indicated the partial collapse of more than 1,000 buildings, while thousands of buildings had cracks. The White Helmets is a voluntary organisation that operates in opposition areas in northwestern Syria.
Sources on the ground told The Syria Report that the most affected areas in Idlib were the cities of Harem, Salqin, Sarmada, and Dana. In Harem, about 10 buildings within a modern residential complex collapsed and in Salqin about 15 buildings collapsed. In Dana, an entire modern neighbourhood of ten-storey buildings collapsed. In the town of Termanin, east of Dana, a new residential complex consisting of eight buildings also collapsed, while in the town of Atmeh on the Turkish border, three buildings collapsed. In the city of Idlib, at least two buildings collapsed.
A modern residential complex in the town of Bisnia on the Harem-Salqin road also collapsed. The complex was inhabited and included twenty residential units that were intended to house IDPs from the southern countryside of Idlib.
In areas controlled by the SIG in the northern countryside of Aleppo, the most destroyed area was the city of Jandairis, where more than 70 multi-storey buildings collapsed, the smallest of which consisted of three floors. All neighbourhoods of the city were affected. In Azaz, dozens of buildings also collapsed; the damage was less significant in the cities of Al-Bab and Jarabulus.
Local sources told The Syria Report that most of these buildings were multi-storey buildings, consisting of at least three floors. Most of these buildings are located within newly built residential compounds. Many modern residential communities were built in recent years due strong demand for housing by people displaced from across Syria. Some of these residential complexes were built by NGOs to house IDPs, while others were built by real estate developers. The lack speed of work due to the growing need for housing, the poor materials used, and the lack of adequate safety procedures to generate quick profits are likely the main factors for the collapses.
The earthquake caused the total collapse of 52 buildings in regime-controlled areas of the Aleppo governorate, including 38 buildings in the city of Aleppo, mostly in its eastern neighbourhoods. Cracks also appeared and partial collapses occurred in hundreds of other buildings.
Three four-storey buildings collapsed in the Kallaseh neighbourhood near the Zaid bin Haritha Mosque, as well as a six-storey building in the Adhamiyeh neighbourhood, two five-storey buildings in the Al-Saliheen neighbourhood, a building in the Aqaba neighbourhood, a building in the Zabadiyeh neighbourhood, and a building in the Fardos neighbourhood. Dozens of other buildings have sustained cracks. Three adjacent five-storey buildings collapsed in the Masharqa neighbourhood in the city centre, while at least one building collapsed in the Mayser neighbourhood in the western part of the city.
Before the earthquake, there were more than 1,500 buildings at risk of collapse in the city of Aleppo, most of them in eastern Aleppo, which is home to large informal housing areas. A large part of those buildings was damaged during the war following the aerial and artillery bombardment of regime forces on the eastern neighbourhoods when the opposition controlled them between 2012 and 2016. Serious cracks appeared on many buildings long after the fighting stopped as an indirect consequence of the shelling on these neighbourhoods.
On Monday, Aleppo’s Relief Subcommittee, which is affiliated with the governorate, formed an operations room and decided to house people affected by the earthquake in 25 apartments in the rehabilitation and training building owned by the Railways Directorate in the Sheikh Taha neighbourhood and 150 apartments owned by the Aleppo City Council and designated for temporary housing in the Massaken Hanano neighbourhood. In addition, 126 sites have been allocated to shelter those affected, including schools, markets, mosques, and churches.
The operations room directed rescue teams to the sites of the collapsed buildings to remove the rubble, carry out rescue operations, and search for survivors. Civil defence, firefighting, and ambulance teams, the Red Crescent, the Syria Trust for Development, and the Aleppo City Council also participated in the efforts.
The head of Aleppo City Council called on citizens to report cracks in buildings. Despite official statements, however, the process of removing the rubble and searching for survivors faces great difficulties, mainly due to the large number of buildings that have collapsed, the limited number of rescue teams, and poor equipment.
Across the Lattakia governorate, more than 100 buildings have collapsed, including 50 that collapsed entirely. Most of the collapsed buildings were in the cities of Lattakia and Jableh and the villages of Al-Fakhoura and Astamoh. In Jableh, the neighbourhoods affected included Al-Fayd and Al-Rumaila, as well as Al-Ghazalat Street. Dozens of buildings were also damaged across the governorate. Eleven shelters were allocated for affected residents.
The ministers of defence, public works and housing, and transportation visited some of the damaged areas in Lattakia and were briefed on the rubble removal operations. Rescue teams were sent to the affected areas.
There is no clear reason for the collapse of these buildings.
With the exception of the Raml neighbourhood south of the city of Lattakia, which mainly comprises informal housing units and where some buildings collapsed, the rest of the areas are zoned and existing buildings were built through formal licences. Building licences are only given once a building is considered in compliance with the requirements of the Syrian Building Code, including seismic buildings codes. Corruption in the city and town councils and nepotism likely contributed to a lack of oversight regarding construction. Poor construction implementation that impacted the structural integrity of a building is considered a violation of the law and is punishable.
On February 06, the ministers of interior, tourism, and education held an emergency meeting with the public officials, including the Governor of Hama, and representatives from the private sector in the governorate. A five-storey building collapsed in the Arbaeen neighbourhood in the city of Hama. The sister of the current prime minister, Hussein Arnous, appears to have lived in the building. The prime minister’s sister and 11 members of her family were killed in the collapse. An uninhabited building in the Jalaa neighbourhood, a building in the village of Hourat Amourin, and a three-storey house in the village of Ayn Al-Krum also collapsed. Many buildings in the cities of Hama, Al-Suqaylbiyah, and Salamieh have sustained cracks. Four shelters were made available in the governorate, including three schools and an institute for the deaf and mute.
In the city of Homs, a damaged, uninhabited building partially collapsed on Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Street in the empty neighbourhood of Jouret Al-Shayyah.
Dozens of old houses near the Qadmous Castle partially collapsed. Houses were damaged in the main market in the city of Banias and a building under construction in the village of Al-Qalou completely collapsed. The Tartous City Council asked residents to report the appearance of cracks in the state of buildings by telephone or WhatsApp.
The damages were limited to minor cracks in some old buildings. The governorate formed committees to assess these cracks and the technical condition of the dams on the main rivers crossing the governorate.
An old building in the Al-Ummal neighbourhood of the city of Deir-ez-Zor completely collapsed; it was originally damaged as a result of the war.
In locations under the control of the regime in the Idlib governorate, buildings partially collapsed in the cities of Maarat Al-Nouman and Khan Sheikhoun. No official statistics were issued on the number of these buildings. Large parts of the two cities are uninhabited and original residents have not been allowed to return to them. Most of these areas are uninhabitable due to the great damage caused to them due to the fighting.