Out of around 50 buildings that completely collapsed in Lattakia governorate, the massive earthquake on February 6 caused the collapse of around 16 buildings in Lattakia city and cracks in dozens of other buildings. Most of the fallen buildings had been constructed without licences in informal settlements and therefore did not meet earthquake safety standards. However, some had been built with licences in formally zoned areas, suggesting tampering with building materials and corruption during construction.
In Al-Ramal Al-Janoubi informal neighbourhood south of Lattakia city, ten buildings collapsed, killing around 40 people. These had been multi-storey buildings of at least four storeys each, most of them entirely inhabited. Some of them were built 20 years ago, while others were built only five years ago. Cracks also appeared on at least 30 other buildings in Al-Ramal Al-Janoubi, some of which are at risk of collapse. Some buildings need an inspection by technical experts to determine whether they are safe.
Al-Ramal Al-Janoubi is an unofficial Palestinian refugee camp located along the seafront in the southern part of Lattakia city. The camp was established in the 1950s via Decree No. 2316 on land expropriated for the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR), a body affiliated with what was called then the Ministry of Local Affairs and Labour, on real estate no. 1140. Before 2011, the camp was home to around 10,000 Palestinian refugees. Al-Ramal Al-Janoubi is informally constructed, with a high population density and cramped buildings.
There is only one main street, known as the Sea Road. The 2.2-hectare neighbourhood suffers from service neglect and is considered one of the poorest areas of Lattakia. Another informal neighbourhood extends along its northern outskirts, known as Al-Ramal Al-Shamali.
Project No. 10
In contrast with the informal Al-Ramal Al-Janoubi neighbourhood, two buildings also collapsed in the formal Project No. 10 area and its expansion zone. Project No. 10 is a zoned area within the expanded zoning plan for Lattakia city. The two collapsed buildings had been licensed, each consisting of five storeys. This project and its extension, located in the northeast of Lattakia city near the Eastern Corniche, are affiliated with Syria’s cooperative housing sector. Dozens of housing cooperative societies have built projects for their members in the area since the 1980s.
An additional, unlicensed building facing the entrance to Project No. 10 also collapsed, killing an entire family of seven.
One of the Lattakia governorate’s Engineering Committees, which was formed after the earthquake and is tasked with inspecting buildings for structural safety, has evacuated ten buildings in Project No. 10 in the past several days due to cracks and other safety issues. Four of the cracked buildings are around 30 years old, while others are newer, built less than a decade ago.
Residents told The Syria Report’s local correspondent that the implementing agencies did not adhere to engineering plans when implementing the construction project. The plans required earthquake-resistant shear walls to be built on all storeys but were eventually scrapped for upper storeys, mainly due to corruption and tampering with the quantities of construction materials available.
Finally, three buildings fell in the Damserkho area at the northern entrance to Lattakia, killing around 20 people. One of the buildings was inside Damserkho, while the other two were on the outskirts of the neighbourhood. Cracks also appeared in at least ten buildings in the area.
Though it is located within the expanded zoning plans for Lattakia, Damserkho contains informal settlements. Despite multiple attempts by the governorate to crack down, unlicensed construction is rampant in the area, due largely to building owners with strong ties to the security services and army bullying official institutions.
All the earthquake-affected buildings in Damserkho were unlicensed or, if they were licensed, went against the terms of their building permits. For example, one collapsed building had been a residential block that included a large furniture store and had been licensed as a three-storey building. However, the building owner decided to add three more storeys without the proper permit.