Nuzha’s story: A Life Shattered by an Earthquake
Nuzha Tarawiyyeh (right) shows what remains of her new apartment to the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, Michael-Ebye Amanya(center) and the UNRWA Chief of Staff, Ben Majkodumni (left) during their visit to Lattakia Palestine refugee camp in late Feburary following the devastating earthquake. (c) 2023 UNRWA Photo
“I have never felt anything like it in all my life. I couldn’t stand up. We were shaken badly, like a baby in a crib,” says Nuzha Tarawiyyeh (67), recalling the earthquake that struck her house in Lattakia Palestine refugee camp in northern Syria one month ago, on 6 February. She was following up on the news of the earthquake in Turkey on her mobile phone when she felt her bed shake. “I put on my robe and ran to the door to escape from the building. I thought I was going to die, but it was impossible to get out. There was dust and debris everywhere and it was hard to breathe.”
The earthquake brought down her neigbhour’s four-storey building, killing 24 of its residents, while some were rescued. “People were shouting ‘Get out. You have to leave the house and the area’,” she continues. “It all happened so fast I can’t even describe it.”
Nuzha lived by herself on the first floor of the building. Although the building is still standing, a technical committee has deemed it uninhabitable. If another tremor hits the area, it could collapse. Nuzha had to move out, leaving everything behind. “I’m just worried about my daily survival. I have my identity card and my UNRWA registration card with me. That's all I have," Nuzha says.
She explains that she put all her savings from working as an English teacher in one of the government-run schools in Lattakia into this apartment. Struggling with emotions, she says, “My family and I have lived in this apartment for only one year. The entire building is new.”
Having survived this natural disaster, Nuzha, appeals for desperately needed assistance. "The aftershocks continue several times a day and people are now living in their cars because they are afraid they will be killed in another earthquake. There is widespread psychological trauma following the quake and the incessant aftershocks.” She says, "The need for humanitarian aid was high even before the earthquake. We had barely overcome the trauma and the impact of the protracted conflict in Syria. I’m happy to be alive but also devastated that my apartment is destroyed. Still, we are trying to stay strong.”
Lattakia camp suffered great losses in the earthquake that destroyed and damaged Palestine refugee homes, forcing many residents to live in collective shelters or with their relatives, like Nuzha. “At first, I moved in with my daughter and her family, but now we moved to another apartment because her’s also suffered damage.” The earthquake cost her her good life and all her belongings, including her dictionaries and stories she had written. A retiree living a comfortable life, she is now back to square one.
In Lattakia, eight Palestine refugees were reported killed in the earthquake, with nine injured. To date (28 Feb), 35 buildings have been assessed to be severely damaged. Due to the continuing aftershocks and concern of further collapses, up to 112 Palestine refugee families continue to seek refuge in UNRWA shelters.
There is an ongoing need for diapers, food items (including water, food baskets and ready-to-eat meals), and cleaning materials. Baby kits for pregnant women are a priority. UNRWA has been distributing these items on an ongoing basis.
On 6 March, the one-month anniversary of the earthquake, UNRWA is launching its revised flash appeal to assist Palestine refugees in Syria who have been impacted.
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