The earthquakes in Syria and Turkey continue to devastate many lives across the Middle East, but the affects can also be felt by those who are safe overseas. 

For one former Swift Current family, it’s gut-wrenching to watch from afar. 

Ahmad Alrahhal came to Swift Current almost 7 years ago with his grandparents, parents, and eight siblings—but they have loved ones who remain in Homs, Syria.

“It’s very, very hard for us,” he said. “Now every day we are watching the news. We are thinking about the people there, plus we are thinking about my two aunts who are there, and my uncle—we are just thinking about them because now, they are in danger.”  

The death toll as of this morning is more than 4,000 people in Syria, with an estimated over 35,000 people in total. 

map_of_earthquake(Screenshot) Map of the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey from The United States Geological Survey

In the immediate destruction of the earthquakes, power was lost, and it was days before the family heard from their relatives. 

Alrahhal described his mind racing with ‘what ifs,’ imagining a phone call where he was told his aunt’s house fell on her family, and the bodies couldn’t be found. His father was hospitalized last week, due to high blood-pressure and stress surrounding the situation.  

On Wednesday, they were able to connect with family in Syria. 

“They are not home now,” Alrahhal said. “They can’t [go home]. After the big [earthquake], they still feel shakes every day.” 

He described their current living situation to be similar to a refugee camp: temporary shelters like tents, set up by people in surrounding communities. 

Unusual freezing temperatures are adding to the already dangerous conditions, increasing risks for vulnerable Syrians. 

“They need help—it's really hard to think about,” he said. “Most people are found dead. What we say is, ‘What did we do? What’s wrong in Syria that nobody is helping us?’”

Alrahhal said that five days after the initial earthquake, the UN has begun supporting Syrian residents with food and blankets.