Hundreds of thousands evacuated in Japan as ‘historic’ rain falls; four dead

Rescue workers are seen next to houses damaged by a landslide following heavy rain in Kitakyushu, southwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 6, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTE

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of people across a wide swathe of western and central Japan were evacuated from their homes on Friday as torrential rain flooded rivers and set off landslides, killing at least four people.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued its strongest possible warning about the “historic” rainfall and said more was set to batter already saturated areas through Sunday, raising the danger of more landslides and major damage.

One part of the main island of Honshu had been hit with twice the total amount of rain for a normal July by Friday morning, and the rain was relentless through the day.

At least four people were killed, one when he was sucked into a drainage pipe and another, an elderly woman, died after being blown over by powerful wind.

A local resident watches Togetsu Bridge and swollen Katsura River, caused by a heavy rain, in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 6, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

A local resident watches Togetsu Bridge and swollen Katsura River, caused by a heavy rain, in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 6, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Several people were missing, including a man whose car was swept away as he delivered milk and a boy who was swept into a ditch, NHK national television said.

“The situation is extremely dangerous,” wrote a Twitter user in Kochi, a city on the smallest main island of Shikoku, where the rain was especially intense.

Several dozen people were injured, four seriously, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. Several people were buried in a landslide and rescuers rushed to dig them out.

About 210,000 people were ordered from their homes due to the danger of further landslides and flooding, nearly half of them in a wide area surrounding Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto, and nearly 2 million more were advised to leave, as of Friday afternoon, the Agency added.

Trains across western and central Japan were halted, including several sections of the Shinkansen bullet train.

The danger was particularly high in a part of the southwesternmost main island of Kyushu, where dozens of people were killed by torrential rain and floods a year ago.

The rain appeared to have been touched off by warm, humid air flowing up from the Pacific Ocean and intensifying the activity of a seasonal rain front.

Remnants of a now-dissipated typhoon that brushed Japan this week also contributed, officials said.

Japan’s weather woes are far from over. Typhoon Maria, forming deep in the Pacific, is set to strengthen, possibly into an intense Category 4 storm, and may directly target the southwestern islands of Okinawa early next week.

(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Michael Perry)

Militants free scores of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls after month in captivity

Some of the newly-released Dapchi schoolgirls are pictured in Jumbam village, Yobe State, Nigeria March 21, 2018. REUTERS/REUTERS/Ola Lanre

By Ola Lanre and Abraham Achirga

DAPCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Islamist militants freed scores of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls on Wednesday, driving them back into the town where they had been captured a month ago.

The captors gave no reason for their release, which triggered celebrations and tears, but the government denied that a ransom had been paid. Several of the girls said some of their friends had died in captivity and one was still being held.

The fighters from the Boko Haram group, some shouting “God is greatest”, drove the girls back into the northeast town of Dapchi in a line of trucks in the morning and dropped them off before leaving, witnesses told Reuters. Some residents fled as the convoy rolled in.

“I don’t know why they brought us back but they said because we are children of Muslims,” one of the freed girls, Khadija Grema, told Reuters.

After the release, in the nearby village of Jumbam, some of the girls held each other and wept, huddling on the ground in beige hijabs as residents stood around them.

Aliyu Maina, reunited with his 13-year-old daughter, said the fighters “stopped and blocked the road, they didn’t talk to anybody, they didn’t greet anybody”.

“They said people should make space for people to recognize their children and I got my child.”

Boko Haram has waged a insurgency for nine years in northeast Nigeria and neighboring states in which tens of thousands of people have been killed, more than 2 million displaced and thousands abducted.

A 2015 military campaign drove the group from most territory it controlled, but much of the area remains beyond government rule, and insurgents still stage attacks from strongholds near Lake Chad.

The kidnapping of 110 girls aged 11-19 on Feb. 19 from Dapchi was the biggest mass abduction since Boko Haram took more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014 – a case that triggered international outrage.

Dapchi residents said more than 100 girls had returned on Wednesday. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Nigerian government was transporting the girls by bus to Maiduguri, one of the largest cities in the northeast and the hub for the fight against Boko Haram.

“One girl is still with them because she is a Christian,” said Grema, the freed student. “About five are dead but it was not as if they killed them – it was because of the stress and trauma that made them tired and weak.”

“They didn’t harm us,” Grema added. “They were giving us food, very good food. We didn’t have any problem.”

She described how, after the kidnapping, the girls were transported by car and canoe, moving through villages and along waterways to a safehouse.

Another girl who gave her name as Fatima said two of her friends were among those who died, trampled as they were being transported.

“They kept us in a big, covered house where no one could spot where we were, even by air we could not be seen,” said Fatima.

Muhammad Bursari said his niece Hadiza Muhammed, another of the freed girls, told him the remaining student was still in captivity because she had refused to convert to Islam.

NO RANSOM

Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, said in a statement 101 released girls had been registered so far.

“No ransom was paid to them to effect this release,” he told Reuters separately. The only condition they gave us is not to release (the girls) to the military but release them in the town of Dapchi without the military presence.”

Nigeria had secured the release “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country,” Mohammed said in the statement.

“For the release to work, the government had a clear understanding that violence and confrontation would not be the way out as it could endanger the lives of the girls, hence a non-violent approach was the preferred option,” it said.

Boko Haram never explained why the girls were taken, but many Nigerians speculated that the goal was ransom. Boko Haram received millions of euros for the release of some of the Chibok girls last year.

The abduction piled pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 promising to crack down on the insurgency. He is expected to seek re-election next year.

Mohammed Dala said he had found his 12-year-old daughter in a crowd of the girls in the center of town.

“Some motors painted in military color came with our girls,” he told Reuters. “They (the militants) … said we should not flee. They dropped the girls at the center of town, near Ali’s tea shop. I found my daughter and left.”

Most of the other girls were taken to a hospital guarded by the military, witnesses said.

(Reporting by Ola Lanre and Abraham Achirga in Dapchi, Afolabi Sotunde and Felix Onuah in Abuja, Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi and Ahmed Kingimi in Maiduguri; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Peter Graff)

Quake-hit Taiwan city winds down rescue efforts, five still missing

A body of a Hong Kong Canadian is carried out from a collapsed building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 9, 2018.

By Fabian Hamacher and Natalie Thomas

HUALIEN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Rescue operations in Taiwan started to wind down on Friday after a devastating 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the tourist area of Hualien this week, taking a toll of 12 dead and five missing.

More than 270 people were injured when Tuesday’s quake hit the eastern coastal city just before midnight, toppling four buildings, ripping large fissures in roads and unleashing panic among the roughly 100,000 residents.

More than 200 aftershocks followed, hampering a round-the-clock rescue effort in which emergency personnel battled rain and cold to comb rubble in a search for survivors.

Efforts on Friday narrowed to finding five Chinese nationals still missing after rescuers pulled two bodies, identified as Canadian citizens from Hong Kong, out of a 12-storey residential building that had been left tilting at a 45-degree angle.

An excavator demolishes collapsed Marshal hotel after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 9, 2018.

An excavator demolishes collapsed Marshal hotel after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Authorities said they would focus their search on the single building where the five missing were believed to be.

“The military will continue to prioritize today rescuing the missing people in the Yun Men Tsui Ti residential building,” it said in a statement.

The building’s extreme displacement made the search tough, the government said in a statement, adding, “The space for our operations is small, so the progress of search and rescue can be slow.”

Power was restored to all affected areas in Hualien, although 8,500 homes are still without water.

The military will work with local government officials to develop a plan to demolish a hotel, a residential building and other dangerous buildings, it said in its statement.

The government vowed to redouble efforts to revise building regulations, aiming to limit damage in any future episodes.

Taiwan revised its building act on Jan. 30 to strengthen investigations of the structures of existing buildings and inspection of completed projects, the interior ministry said on Friday.

The revision, expected to be discussed by a cabinet meeting at the end of February, would also seek third-party views in building assessments, it said.

The government added that it would hasten reconstruction of old buildings to make them earthquake-resistant and work to boost the safety of other structures in affected areas.

“At every stage, the central government will fully assist local governments,” it added.

 

(Additional reporting by Tyrone Siu; Writing by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Clarence Fernandez)

At least two dead in magnitude 6.4 quake in Taiwan

The aftermaths of earth quake are seen in Hualien, Taiwan, February 6, 2018, in this picture grab obtained from social media video.

TAIPEI (Reuters) – A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck near the coastal city of Hualien in Taiwan late on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, killing at least two people and causing several buildings to collapse.

The quake struck about 22 km (14 miles) northeast of Hualien shortly before midnight, and the epicenter was very shallow at just 1km, the USGS said.

“Two people were unfortunately killed, and 114 have suffered light or severe injuries,” Taiwan’s Premier William Lai told an emergency government meeting.

A number of aftershocks hit the area, but there was no word of any tsunami warning.

Hualien is a popular tourist destination on Taiwan’s eastern coast and home to about 100,000 people.

“The president has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the ‘disaster mechanism’ and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work,” President Tsai Ing-wen’s office said in a statement.

Lai said the government was urgently repairing a major highway damaged by the quake. He said the government would provide further updates on the situation later on Wednesday morning.

Among the buildings toppled in the quake was the Marshal Hotel in Hualien, where three people were trapped inside, the government said.

Four other buildings, including two hotels and a military hospital, also tilted during the quake in Hualien, which is located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of the capital, Taipei.

The government said two bridges in the city were either cracked or could not be used due to the quake.

On Sunday an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 struck nearby.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers part of its territory, is prone to earthquakes.

More than 100 were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, and some Taiwanese remain scarred by a 1999 earthquake with 7.6 magnitude whose impact was felt across the island and in which more than 2,000 people died.

(Reporting by Jess Macy Yu and Taipei bureau; Editing by Tony Munroe and Gareth Jones)

Rescuers race against time to find missing in California mudslides

A home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018.

By Rollo Ross and Alan Devall

SANTA BARBARA, Calif (Reuters) – Rescue crews in Southern California resumed on Thursday the arduous task of combing through tons of debris for survivors from deadly mudslides that struck along the state’s picturesque coastal communities.

Seventeen people are confirmed dead and another 17 people are missing after a wall of mud roared down hillsides in the scenic area between the Pacific Ocean and the Los Padres National Forest, according to authorities in Santa Barbara County.

“Right now, our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told Los Angeles television station KCAL.

A kitchen in a home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018.

A kitchen in a home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018. Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News-Press via REUTERS

Some 500 rescuers using search dogs, military helicopters, and thermal imaging equipment are on scene.

Search and rescue efforts have been slow as crews have to navigate through waist-deep mud, fallen trees, boulders and other debris.

“Another tough day in Santa Barbara County as Search and Rescue, Fire and Law Enforcement personnel from across our county and our neighboring counties searched for survivors and evacuated people,” the sheriff’s office said on its Twitter feed late Wednesday night.

The devastating mudslides, which were triggered by heavy rains early on Tuesday, roared into valleys denuded by historic wildfires that struck the area last month.

The debris flow from the mudslides has destroyed 100 homes, damaged hundreds of other structures and injured 28 people, said Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Among the damaged properties were historic hotels and the homes of celebrities including television personality Oprah Winfrey and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, who both live in the upscale hillside community of Montecito.

DeGeneres said on her talk showing airing Thursday that the picturesque town of 9,000 is a “tight-knit” community.

“It’s not just a wealthy community, it’s filled with a lot of different types of people from all backgrounds,” she said. “And there are families missing, there are people who are missing family members…it’s catastrophic.”

A car sits tangled in debris after being destroyed by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018.

A car sits tangled in debris after being destroyed by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018. Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News-Press via REUTERS

Last month’s spate of wildfires, including the Thomas Fire – the largest in the state’s history – stripped hillsides of vegetation and left behind a slick film that prevented the ground from absorbing rainwater.

“First we got burned out at our ranch that caught on fire and now we’re flooding, so the last month has been pretty bad,” said Charles Stoops, as he stood in front of his house, which was surrounded in mud three feet (nearly a meter) deep.

(Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Tom Brown, Leslie Adler, William Maclean)

Typhoon leaves flooding, four dead in Japan before moving out to sea

A collapsed road is seen following torrential rain caused by typhoon Lan in Kishiwada, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on October 23, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – A rapidly weakening typhoon Lan made landfall in Japan on Monday, setting off landslides and flooding that prompted evacuation orders for tens of thousands of people, but then headed out to sea after largely sparing the capital, Tokyo.

Four people were reported killed, hundreds of plane flights canceled, and train services disrupted in the wake of Lan, which had maintained intense strength until virtually the time it made landfall west of Tokyo in the early hours of Monday.

At least four people were killed, including a man who was hit by falling scaffolding, a fisherman tending to his boat, and a young woman whose car had been washed away by floodwaters.

Another casualty was left comatose by injuries and a man was missing, NHK public television said. Around 130 others suffered minor injuries.

Rivers burst their banks in several parts of Japan and fishing boats were tossed up on land. A container ship was stranded after being swept onto a harbor wall but all 19 crew members escaped injury.

Some 80,000 people in Koriyama, a city 200 km (124 miles) north of Tokyo, were ordered to evacuate as a river neared the top of its banks, NHK said, but by afternoon water levels were starting to fall. Several hundred houses in western Japan were flooded.

“My grandchild lives over there. The house is fine, but the area is flooded, and they can’t get out,” one man told NHK.

Lan had weakened to a category 2 storm when it made landfall early on Monday, sideswiping Tokyo, after powering north for days as an intense category 4 storm, according to the Tropical Storm Risk monitoring site.

Lan is the Marshall islands word for “storm”.

By Monday afternoon the storm had been downgraded to a tropical depression and it was in the Pacific, east of the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Around 350 flights were canceled and train services disrupted over a wide area of Japan, although most commuter trains were running smoothly in Tokyo.

Toyota Motor Corp canceled the first shift at all of its assembly plants but said it would operate the second shift as normal.

 

(Additional reporting by Junko Fujita and Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)

 

Villagers begin to mourn dead after deadly China landslide

Relatives of victims react at the site of a landslide in the village of Xinmo, Mao County, Sichuan Province, China June 26, 2017.

By Sue-Lin Wong

XINMO, China (Reuters) – Villagers in China visited what used to be their relatives’ homes on Monday to mourn loved ones lost when a landslide swept down a mountain, with little hope of finding anyone alive after more than 48 hours of fruitless searching.

At least 93 people are missing after the landslide engulfed Xinmo village in mountainous Sichuan province as dawn broke on Saturday. Ten people have been confirmed dead.

“Our house was somewhere around here but everything has been destroyed beyond recognition,” said a middle aged woman, one of a few residents who were away when disaster struck, after she pulled a green blanket she recognised out of the mud and rocks.

Rescue workers carry a victim at the site of a landslide that occurred in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China, June 25, 2017.

Rescue workers carry a victim at the site of a landslide that occurred in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China, June 25, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS

The government has sent some 3,000 rescuers, along with heavy digging equipment, and has promised to do all it can to look for survivors.

Heavy rain triggered the landslide, authorities have said.

Some villagers said they’ve always known landslides are a big danger but authorities never offered to help them move.

With danger of more landslides, authorities have been restricting access to the disaster zone, but hundreds of people were allowed back on Monday.

Mournful wails and firecracker explosions echoed through Xinmo’s steep valley as bereaved relatives returned, many clutching snacks and wrapped in plastic and bottles of wine as offerings for the dead.

Some people burned paper money and lit incense which, along with setting off fireworks, are traditional acts of mourning.

“Every single family has been impacted by the landslide, it’s horrible,” said Sun Danxian, from a neighbouring village who was walking through the site.

The government of Mao county, where the village is located, posted on Monday drone video footage of the area showing about dozen mechanical diggers shifting through a landscape of grey rocks.

‘LYING FOR THREE DAYS’

Earlier on Monday, about 100 villagers, unhappy with what they said was limited information, met government officials at a nearby primary school, insisting they had to get to Xinmo.

They also voiced fears about the possibility of rebuilding homes before winter and what would happened to orphans.

“These government officials have been lying to us for three days,” a middle aged man from Xinmo, with several missing relatives told Reuters. He declined to give his name.

“They told us we could go back yesterday morning but they kept delaying and delaying giving us all kinds of excuses. They told us a central government official was going to come to visit us. He showed up and didn’t even bother to speak to us.”

Another relative said the government should have moved them out of an area they knew was prone to landslides.

“There have been landslides before but no one has ever suggested we move. The government knows it’s dangerous to live in these kinds of villages and yet they do nothing,” said the elderly man, who also would not provide his name.

The official China Daily cited Xu Qiang, a disaster expert at the Ministry of Land and Resources, as saying large-scale relocations in the area were difficult.

“Many of the villagers have been living here for generations and have seen no major geological disasters,” Xu said. “This is their home and livelihood and it is very difficult to convince them to leave, specially when you only have a hypothesis and predictions.”

Sichuan province is also prone to earthquakes, including an 8.0 magnitude tremor in central Sichuan’s Wenchuan county in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.

Mao county is next to Wenchuan. State media said the mountainside that collapsed onto the village had been weakened by the 2008 earthquake.

Most residents of the area are poor farmers of the Qiang ethnic minority and the area is the target of a poverty alleviation project, according to government officials.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

Search continues for missing after Colombia tourist boat accident

Rescuers wait at the dock after a tourist boat sank with 150 passengers onboard at the Guatape reservoir, Colombia, June 25, 2017

GUATAPE, Colombia (Reuters) – Rescue workers searched on Monday for 13 people believed to be missing after a tourist boat sank the previous day in a reservoir in north-central Colombia, killing seven.

The cause of the accident was still unclear, officials said. Use of the Penol-Guatape reservoir, a popular site for water-sports and tours, was restricted as the search continued.

The boat, El Almirante, was carrying about 150 passengers, officials said. Reports of the dead and missing have varied since the accident on Sunday afternoon. Authorities had initially said more than 170 people were onboard.

Divers look for people believed to be missing after a tourist boat sank on Sunday in the Penol-Guatape reservoir, in Guatape, Colombia June 26, 2017

Divers look for people believed to be missing after a tourist boat sank on Sunday in the Penol-Guatape reservoir, in Guatape, Colombia June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Fredy Builes

“We have seven dead and 13 disappeared,” Carlos Ivan Marquez, the head of the national disaster relief agency told journalists. Three people previously thought missing have contacted authorities, he added.

Officials initially reported nine people dead and 28 missing, but later said some survivors rescued by private boats were taken to different docks on the reservoir shore and so were not immediately accounted for.

Videos posted on social media showed motorboats coming to the aid of passengers on the upper decks as the boat rocked from side to side. Survivors told local television they heard a loud noise before the boat began to sink.

It is a long holiday weekend in the Andean country and the reservoir is a well-known destination for families.

Officials were interviewing the captain and investigating allegations by some passengers that they did not have life-jackets, Vice Transport Minister Alejandro Maya told journalists at the scene earlier on Monday.

President Juan Manuel Santos visited rescue crews at the reservoir, about an hour’s drive from the city of Medellin, on Sunday night.

(Reporting by Fredy Builes in Guatape and Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota; editing by Diane Craft)

Afghan families search morgues, hospitals after devastating truck bomb

Relatives of victims listen to hospital officials after a blast in Kabul.

By Mirwais Harooni

KABUL (Reuters) – It took nearly 24 hours for his Afghan family to discover Hamidullah’s broken body on the bottom shelf of a morgue at Kabul’s Wazir Akhbar Khan hospital.

Around him were placed the few personal belongings he had with him when he died.

“He was engaged and was about to get married,” his cousin Abdullah told Reuters, grief clouding his eyes as he stood in the barren morgue. “All of his and his family’s dreams remained unfinished.”

Twenty-year-old Hamidullah was on his way to his print shop in Afghanistan’s capital city early on Wednesday morning when he was killed by a massive truck bomb that exploded in the middle of a busy street, killing at least 80 people and wounding more than 450.

While the intended target of the bomb remains unknown, the explosion occurred near the gates of a heavily fortified area of the city that holds many foreign embassies and government ministries.

Many of the victims, however, were working class Afghans, people who had managed to eke out livelihoods during years of violence and economic malaise.

For Hamidullah’s family, the first indication something was be wrong was the sound of a powerful explosion, followed by an expanding cloud of smoke rising over the city.

Calls to his cellphone went unanswered, and a growing number of extended family members joined huge crowds at hospitals around the city, all seeking news of friends and family caught in the attack.

“We went to several hospitals to find him,” said Abdullah.

The hospital in Wazir Akhbar Khan was one of several inundated with the wounded, and later, the bodies.

“I have never experienced such a day in all my life,” said one morgue attendant who asked for anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly. “All the freezers were full, and the dead bodies lined the road to the morgue as well.”

As of Thursday morning, as Hamidullah’s family gathered in small groups under the trees outside the morgue to wait for his father’s arrival, there were still a dozen unidentified bodies at the hospital, officials said.

Among those, around half are unrecognizable, the attendant added. Due to a lack of space, bodies had to be laid out on the ground and 20 were sent to a nearby military hospital.

VICTIMS REMEMBER

Among the victims were employees of Afghan and international media, a major telecommunications company and a bank as well as police officers and security guards.

Kabul’s Emergency Hospital received at least 108 victims of Wednesday’s attack, said Sakhi Shafiq, a team leader there.

From their hospital beds, survivors described the scenes of horror they had lived through.

“I felt my face and body burning and I felt blood coming out of my face,” said Karim Jan, speaking with difficulty.

With chaos all around, he staggered several blocks to Emergency Hospital where he remains, heavily bandaged, with shrapnel scars dotting his face and limbs.

Baqer Zmarai was walking to his job at the state television station and had just passed the German Embassy, which was heavily damaged in the blast, when the bomb went off.

“I fell on the ground,” he said from his bed at Wazir Akhbar Khan hospital. “It was hard to see my surroundings. I could hear people yelling for help.”

Surrounded by dirt, smoke, mangled cars and shattered buildings, Zmarai struggled to stand on injured legs.

“I tried to escape but I could not walk.”

While some of the wounded were able to go home, many remain in hospitals and the search for lost loved ones continues.

“I do not know if my son is dead or alive. I have to see and find him,” said Besmillah, who stood outside the locked gates of Emergency Hospital on Thursday, pleading with the staff to let him enter.

“I went to every single hospital but could not find my son.”

(Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)