Prince Edward County man loses 10 family members to deadly earthquake in Syria
Family has 'been suffering since the day it happened,' he says
Ramez Al-Jassem is mourning 10 family members lost to the deadly earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey in the early hours Monday.
A resident of Prince Edward County, roughly 65 kilometres west of Kingston, Ont., Al-Jassem learned from afar that his cousin, her husband and eight of their children were killed in the earthquake.
"Some people have been hearing their families under the houses and they can't do anything, just dig with their hands," Al-Jassem told CBC's Ontario Morning.
As of Friday, more than 20,000 people have been confirmed dead, making the 7.8-magnitude tremor the world's deadliest earthquake in over a decade.
- Rescuers struggle to find earthquake survivors in Turkey and Syria, as more than 20,000 confirmed dead
Canada's federal government has said it will match up to $10 million in donations to the Canadian Red Cross for earthquake relief.
But Al-Jassem said international aid has so far focused on large cities, and his family's experience is typical of how the earthquake is devastating smaller communities.
"They forgot about the towns, and people think it's all full of rubble," he said. "But no, it's full of children."
Building fell directly on their house
Al-Jassem said his family suffered so many casualties because a large building fell "directly on their house."
A lack of digging equipment and medical supplies in the rebel-controlled part of the country, which has been mired in civil war since 2011, meant his cousin's brother had to dig the family out with his hands.
In the end, only one of the children could be saved — a 12-year-old boy who survived with a broken leg.
Afraid more buildings would come down, his surviving family members have slept outside on mattresses in fields and on roads in the days since the earthquake.
"They've been suffering since the day it happened," he said.
Al-Jassem moved to Canada to escape the Syrian civil war, but said he now wishes he could return to offer whatever help he can.
He said he hopes aid workers will soon find a way to better support small cities and towns.
"They're human beings too," he said.