Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has just launched an emergency appeal for people in northern Syria desperate for help following a series of devastating earthquakes over the last few days. ACN is appealing for funds to support local Church partners helping those plunged into dire need by the natural disasters.

The charity is currently in dialogue with project partners and expects to be able to shortly confirm a fresh aid package which will focus on two key areas.

Firstly, it will support repairs in Aleppo which will allow those currently being sheltered by the Church to return to their homes. This includes repairs to heating and water systems as well as structural damage resulting from the quakes.

It is estimated that more than 7,500 people slept in Aleppo’s churches, convents and other locations last night (7th February). The Mekhitarists – an Armenian-Catholic religious order – are sheltering 2,000 people in the school they run in Aleppo, and need more help.

Secondly, ACN’s emergency aid will provide blankets, food and other essential aid for those who have been forced out of their homes by the natural disaster. This is a particular problem in Lattakia where many of the inhabitants are IDPs who fled their homes during the country’s civil war.

Franciscans are caring for people in Lattakia affected by the earthquake including children and the elderly.

The charity’s announcement comes as the number of deaths in the country has risen to almost 2,500. Reports suggest the death toll will probably rise in northern Syria, as hundreds are still buried under the rubble in areas without rescue teams.

Sister Annie Demerjian told ACN that for many in Aleppo the earthquakes have been more traumatic than the civil war. Sister Annie said: “If you ask the people of Aleppo about the war they lived through, they express their feelings of pain, fear, despair about the future, loss of safety, etc.

“They use many different expressions to express the 12-year war, but if you ask them about the earthquake that they were exposed to, the answer is just one word – horror.

“Imagine that you are in bed at 4am, and the floor begins to shake violently.

“Doors open, glass shatters, the walls sway violently, and the sounds of screaming and collapsing come from outside”.

Ongoing UN aid to north-west Syria, which was being routed via Turkey, has been temporarily halted due to road damage and other logistical issues caused by the earthquakes.

While disputes over who has oversight of aid into rebel-held areas of northern Syria have hampered efforts to get international help into the region, Churches have been among local bodies leading the response to the crisis.