Quake deals new blow to Syrian medics

STORY: This is what's left of the al-Dana hospital in the northwest of Syria after a deadly earthquake hit two weeks ago.

The facility is no longer operational.

The words "Unsafe" and "Unfit for work" have been painted in red next the entrance.

Medics say the quake is a new blow to the health services already battered by more than a decade of war in the country.

Reuters met nurse Ibrahim Zeidan in another hospital nearby.

He endured many desperate moments in the rebel-held region, including being trapped in rubble after shelling destroyed a hospital where he was working.

But he says the earthquake on February 6 has proved the most difficult challenge yet for medics.

CCTV footage showed the moment when the quake struck the al-Dana hospital.

Zeidan oversaw the evacuation of infants from the hospital.

He said he had children on oxygen but he could not find a space for them because all hospitals in the area were full.

More than 4,500 people have been reported killed and at least 8,300 people injured by the quake in northwest Syria, according to the United Nations - a country fractured by civil war since 2011.

Hospitals in the rebel-held northwest have been shelled repeatedly in the war.

In 2019, more than 60 medical facilities were struck in a six-month period in the northwest Idlib area.

A U.N. rights spokesperson said at the time it appeared to have been deliberately targeted by government-affiliated forces.

And the al-Dana hospital itself was established with staff and equipment transferred from another hospital that was badly damaged during a government military campaign in 2020, according to Ayman Al Hussein, the medical coordinator of the the Syrian American Medical Society.

Until the quake, the al-Dana hospital had been serving a region with a population of some 600,000 people, Hussein added.

He said that the biggest challenge now is that the hospital would be out of operation for a month for repairs - putting yet more pressure on the surrounding hospitals.