"The earthquake was felt very strongly and for a long time", explains Salesian missionary Alejandro León, responsible for the Salesians in the Middle East, from Kafroun, near Homs and the Lebanese border. The first information he has received from Aleppo, one of the areas most affected by the strong earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, is that "our works have suffered minor damage from cracks and some broken glass, but both the Salesians and the people we are looking after nearby are fine, despite the shock".
As soon as the strong tremor hit, "some families took refuge in our house in Aleppo. They came with nothing but the clothes on their backs and we provided them with warm clothes and food. Their houses are not in good condition due to the war, and they feel safer with us", explains the Salesian.
The earthquake, which had its epicentre in the province of Kahramanmaraş, in southern Turkey and very close to the north-western border of Syria, was felt strongly in 14 countries, including Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus and Jordan.
Hundreds of buildings have collapsed, in many cases burying people sleeping in them. Provisional figures, which continue to rise, speak of more than 1,000 people dead, hundreds missing under the rubble and thousands injured.
The Salesian missionaries in Aleppo, who have been serving the population in the city centre since the beginning of the war, have decided to assist and help the earthquake victims who come to them. "We don't know yet how we will organise ourselves, but between the cold, the snow and the situation of many buildings after almost 12 years of war, the population needs urgent help," they say.
"We know that there are many dead and that many buildings have collapsed, so within our possibilities we will offer shelter, accompaniment and emergency aid with the basic necessities that we can offer in these first moments," says Alejandro León.