Heavy rains flood displacement camps in northern Syria

Unconfirmed reports suggest there have been fatalities due to flooding

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Dramatic footage of dead livestock and of displaced Syrians struggling to walk in knee-high water has emerged after storms battered the region for several days.

Informal camps in northern Syria were hard hit by the torrential rains, said Ismail Abdallah, a volunteer with the White Helmets rescue group. These included Atmeh and Azaz near the Turkish border, as well as Al Bab north of Aleppo.

"We received dozens of calls from people who asked to be evacuated on Saturday night," Mr Abdallah told The National. Over 6 million people in Syria have been displaced since the civil war began in 2011.

The White Helmets published several photos on Twitter Saturday of women holding hands as they walked through knee-high water with small children under pouring rain in a camp near Al Bab. “The already bleak living conditions of several camps in northern Syria have come under heavy and damaging rains,” they wrote.

People were also rescued later that night after their cars were swept away by the rain, tweeted the White Helmets.

The flooding occurred in areas under Turkish as well as Kurdish control. Local NGOs operate in those areas, but the Damascus government does not.

"Hundreds of tents along the Turkish border were destroyed. Roads and schools are closed," Samer Daabol, a freelance photographer living in Atmeh told The National.

Local media reported that a 35-year old woman and a child died in the province of Hassakeh, which is controlled by Kurdish forces. The National could not independently verify these claims. The White Helmets said they had not recorded any deaths.

Pictures of a distraught elderly lady crying and holding out her arms as she stood in a flooded street in the small village of Tal Hamis, in the north-eastern corned of Syria, were widely shared on social media. Other pictures showed men wading through the muddy waters carrying televisions, mirrors and vanity sets.

A dozen homes – nearly half the village – were destroyed in the nearby village of Al Malikiyah, a villager told Turkey-based Syria TV earlier this week. Images show drowned sheep lying in the grass and collapsed buildings.

A video of a man running after dozens of cooking gas canisters floating down a flooded street drew an angry comment on Twitter. “Thank God these strong rains brought floods to Syria. Hopefully, this year, Syria will be released from suffering,” wrote one user.

Shortages of gas canisters affected much of Syria this winter following recent US sanctions.

The rains also shut down a border crossing linking Syria’s Kurdish-administered areas to Iraq’s northern Kurdish region on Monday.

This winter's rains have been particularly harsh on displaced Syrians who live in precarious conditions both inside and outside Syria. In early January, the UN said that 80 000 displaced had been affected by flash flooding in Syria.

Other countries in the region have also been affected by the heavy rains. In Iran, at least 45 people were killed last week.