“We are well, thank God, all well. It was frightening, very strong. There is much fear, that is the general feeling, in some cases even panic. And there is good reason to be afraid.” This is how Fr Hugo Alaniz, a project partner of the international foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), described the situation in Aleppo, where a new earthquake struck Syria and Turkey on Monday. The quake hit the same region that had been shaken exactly one week earlier, killing at least 47,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
Monday’s earthquake did not cause serious physical or material damage in Syria, but the psychological toll was significant. ACN project partners in Aleppo and Lattakia, and employees in Homs and Damascus, confirm that hundreds of people spent the night in the street, in parking lots or in churches. The Franciscans in Lattakia once again hosted two hundred people in their church and the courtyard of the Mekhitarist college was turned into a large camp where hundreds of people spent the night.
“I was visiting a family when the quake hit. I had already experienced an earthquake back in my native Argentina, when I was small, but it is really terrible, and very frightening. Everybody was screaming, they should have exited the house, but everybody stayed put, so I stayed with them. I crouched under a beam and prayed, begging God to have mercy”, says the Argentinian religious, who serves a parish in one of the poorer neighbourhoods of Aleppo, with a large population of Armenian Christians.
“Finally, I went outside. I spent three hours walking through the streets, consoling people, families, encouraging them and praying, until midnight. I ended up in a hospital, praying with those I knew who were there. We also opened the bishop’s residence, and took in many families.”
“Thank goodness, things are much better today. But please pray, pray for us. God bless you, and thank you for remembering us”, says the priest.
Thanks to the generosity of ACN benefactors, around 450 families in Fr Hugo’s parish have been receiving emergency aid in the form of blankets, flashlights, medicine, food and milk for babies and the elderly.
“We thank God for this blessing. In light of the current tragic circumstances in Syria, caused by the earthquake, particularly in Aleppo, which has been classified as a devastated city, we are trying to cover as many needs as possible, thanks to your help. I would also like to thank you for your efforts in the service of the Word of God”, says Father Enrique González, who works with Father Hugo in the parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation, Aleppo, in a message of thanks to ACN.
Pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is currently carrying out a 500,000 Euro emergency campaign to help victims of the earthquake in Aleppo and Lattakia, through the local Church. With this first package of aid the pontifical charity has been supporting projects that supply food, medicine, hygiene products and lodging, among other basic needs. An increasing number of people have been benefitting from this aid, according to information provided by ACN project partners on the ground.