Child dies as heavy rains turn Syria IDP camps into ‘lakes’

Tens of thousands of people affected by devastating floods, with many forced to sleep in open air after destruction of makeshift tents.

Children play in the Umm Jurn camp for the displaced, near the village of Kafr Uruq, in Syria's northern rebel-held Idlib province [Abdulaziz Ketaz/AFP]

Heavy rains have caused widespread flooding at displacement camps in northwest Syria, killing one child and damaging or destroying the tents of thousands of families, according to residents and aid workers.

The Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets – a volunteer search-and-rescue group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria – confirmed on Tuesday that a six-year-old boy was killed in Idlib province after the brick wall built around his tent collapsed on top of him.

The group said Abdulrazzak al-Jubasi died shortly after he was rescued, on his way to the hospital.

A total of at least 41,200 people were affected by the devastating storm, according to the aid group Save the Children. White Helmets said its teams had documented damages in 169 camps in Idlib and Aleppo.

At one camp in the rebel-held bastion, the makeshift tents of families displaced by war lay marooned in muddy puddles after days of rain, an AFP news agency correspondent said.

Abu Qassem said he and his family had been struggling for days to keep their tent in the Maaret Misrin district dry.

“We’ve been swimming in water for three days now,” the father of eight said. “Water has seeped into our tents and the women are trying to bail it out.”

Nearby, White Helmets volunteers worked with bulldozers to remove excess mud.

“The camp has turned into a lake, tents in it,” Mahmud al-Allawi, another resident, said. “No words can describe our suffering,” the 24-year-old added.

‘More bad weather to come’    

On Sunday, in a camp in the Kafr Uruq area, some residents tried to sweep the mud from the entrance to their tents, the same reporter said.

Thick woollen blankets cast over some dwellings to keep out the cold were sopping wet.

The luckiest adults and children were wearing rubber boots, but others ran around in the puddles in light sportswear, trousers rolled up to the knee and open-toe plastic slip-on shoes.

Senior United Nations humanitarian official Mark Cutts described “miserable conditions in the flooded displacement camps in Idlib and other areas”.

“And more bad weather to come, with forecasts of snow and temperatures dropping to -3 degrees Celsius [26.6 degrees Fahrenheit] in the coming days,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

Save the Children said many were now looking for shelter.

“Tens of thousands of people scattered to find shelter from the ongoing storm in schools and mosques,” it said.

“Others were forced to sleep in the open air last night, in temperatures below zero.”

Idlib is home to about three million people, some half of them displaced by the nearly 10-year war from other parts of the country.

Among the displaced are tens of thousands who fled a Russian-backed government offensive that whittled away at the south of the rebel-dominated region last year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies