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Homes Collapse in Syria Killing 31

October 3, 2002

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ALEPPO, Syria (AP) _ Mountain homes in this northern Syrian city collapsed early Wednesday when caves beneath them gave way, killing 31 people and injuring 22, officials said.

Some 17 houses _ home to about 60 people _ collapsed in the Sawad Hill district of Aleppo, a civil defense officer said. Some residents said relatives and neighbors were missing and feared trapped in the rubble.

The affected houses are in the district of al-Sawdah Hill in Aleppo, about 185 miles north of Damascus, the capital. Some 11,000 people live in al-Sawdah Hill.

Yahya al-Sawad, a 32-year-old resident of the area where the collapse occurred, said the houses fell about 12 feet. A nearby street also caved in, burying three cars.

Hassan Jawad, another resident, said he was ordered by the government to evacuate his damaged house after the collapse. ``Where will I go with a wife and nine children?″ he asked.

Survivor Wardeh Mahmoud, 26, was in tears as she recalled how her mother, Jamila Muhammad, 60, and brother Fuad, 27, died under the rubble.

Earlier Wednesday the official Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Aleppo Governor Osama Adi as saying the houses fell at about 4 a.m.

Adi and rescue workers could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press, and other government officials refused to comment. Aleppo’s police chief, Brig. Hassan Ammar, said four of the injured were in serious condition.

The collapsed houses were built in the late 1950s, according to Bassam Beiruti, chief of Aleppo’s Municipality Council. Some residents did not know that their houses stood on caves.

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