Syria is burning.
For three days, a series of fires devoured the vast Syrian agricultural areas of Homs, Tartus and Latakia. In the middle of olive, apple and grape season, the severe drought and the resulting fires jeopardize a year's worth of harvests.
The dry land burns. Around the houses, a stifling heat pushes the inhabitants to desert the place. At night, from the sky, the glowing red expanses evoke devastating and voracious lava flows. Those who do not witness the tragic event from their doorstep will discover it on Syrian television.
"These images are apocalyptic. Our history is burning from within. (...) We don't deserve anything that has happened to us in the last 10 years. The bloodbath and sacrifices lead to this? I saw old people fighting the flames with their bare hands, firemen crying for the first time. Enough. This should be shouted from the rooftops. Enough of this! "publishes a Syrian woman on her Facebook wall.
But after more than 30 hours of firefighting, the main fires were brought under control by firefighters, military and civilians. But the damage is done. The 156 fire starts left in their wake ashes and desolation. According to the Syrian Ministry of Health, three people perished in the hundreds of hectares of burnt area and 70 were hospitalized for severe asphyxiation problems. 143 villages were damaged and 27,000 families affected. The tobacco warehouse in Qardahah collapsed as a result of the fire and the city hospital was trapped by the flames.
A week ago, a team from SOS Chrétiens d'Orient traveled to the countryside of Hama to see the damage from a first wave of fires that hit Ayn Halaqeem and Hazur. Together with the village elders, our team studied the reforestation project of the burnt land. Josephine, a volunteer in Syria, tells the story of the trip.
"Since my arrival, I've been visiting sites where houses and churches are being rebuilt. From walls to roofs and windows, everything has to be rebuilt. But today, I discovered a very different building site in a disastrous landscape. We go to the countryside of Hama, to two villages in ashes: Ayn Halaqeem and Hazur. The fire ravaged houses and vegetation, leaving only the inhabitants ruined by this disaster.
Although the middle of October points the tip of its nose, the heat is still stifling. On the way, I admire, through the window of the car, the landscapes still dressed in their summer colors: the big desert hills stretch as far as the eye can see, with here and there, a few shrubs that resist this furnace. I am lost in my contemplation in spite of the bump of the car. The numerous pebbles that pass under the wheels make us wobble from right to left, we cling to the doors and seats so as not to be thrown on the windows. The tires leave a linear trace on the sand, quickly erased by the wind.
I am already nostalgic for my first days in Syria. My eyes filled with admiration and amazement, I was discovering this beautiful country and I never thought I would get so attached to it. Today, I am still admiring it. I will find nothing like these mountains and this desert in France. My eyes sparkle in front of the tall grass in the colors of the sun and the majestic fir trees. This spectacle makes me forget the inconveniences of the road.
On our arrival, we are received by the mayor and the priest of the village who tells us their story. In this very arid region, the economy is mainly based on the cultivation of olive trees, apple fields and vineyards.
As the discussion is in Arabic, I don't understand what they are saying to each other but the eyes of the mayor say a lot about what they have lived through. He seems very anxious to find a solution to get his village out of this disaster. The priest sees the more spiritual aspect of the matter. He thanks Heaven that all the inhabitants were able to get out of the disaster safely. This way of always thanking God even though they lost everything leaves me speechless and filled with deep admiration.
On the spot, everything is dark. The fire has left its marks over several kilometers. The trees and tall grass, which were so beautiful on the way, are here reduced to ashes. At our side, the priest and the mayor look sadly at the fields of their villagers for the umpteenth time. The crops are decimated. And yet, they do not seem angry. They do not revolt but call for help. They want to make it happen and are convinced that with help, the plantations will rise from the ashes. They are strong people whose hope does not fade but with the great humility needed to ask for help.
SOS Chrétiens d'Orient has answered their call. So that the inhabitants can replant as soon as possible, they need olive, vines and apple seedlings. And to accompany them as well as possible, the volunteers will come by regularly to see the progress of the project and support the inhabitants.
This project, worth 10,000 euros, will rebuild Syrian economy, so as of now, support the Syrians.”
Josephine, volunteer in Syria.