Batroun, one of Lebanon’s ancient coastal cities, is a treasure trove of history and culture, but much of its heritage remains undiscovered. With Phoenician ruins, Roman artifacts, a medieval castle, Byzantine-style churches, and arcaded Ottoman souks, Batroun has a rich history that dates back to before the Phoenician era. Yet, the true origins of the city remain a mystery.

Batroun remains a mystery

The origins of Batroun are still a mystery: While the city is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, its true origins are not fully understood. Some experts believe that the city dates back to the time of the Phoenicians, while others suggest that it could be of Roman or even Crusader origin. Despite extensive excavations and research, the city’s true history remains a mystery.

Batroun has many archaeological treasures

Batroun has a wealth of undiscovered archaeological treasures: According to excavator and former Greenpeace activist Georges Mubarak, there are many archaeological treasures waiting to be discovered in Batroun. These include ancient pottery, jade artifacts, and glass objects. Mubarak believes that there are many structures and vestiges buried underneath the city that have yet to be uncovered.

Batroun used to be a trade center

Batroun was once the largest trade center on Lebanon’s coastline: In the early 19th century, Batroun was the largest trade center on Lebanon’s coastline. The city’s strategic location and thriving port made it a hub for trade, with merchandise being imported and exported through its port. Today, the city’s economy is largely focused on tourism.

Batroun has crystal-clear waters

Batroun’s seafront is pollution-free: Unlike many other coastal cities in Lebanon, Batroun’s beaches are known for their crystal-clear waters and lack of pollution. This is due to the city’s proper infrastructure for sewers, which has prevented pollution from damaging the seafront.

Batroun has a special feature

Batroun is home to the “Phoenician wall”: One of the most fascinating features of Batroun is the “Phoenician wall”. The wall was sculpted more than 2,000 years ago by the city’s inhabitants using sandstone quarried from the area. Only 225 meters of the original 1-kilometer-long wall remains, but it is still a stunning example of the city’s ancient heritage.

Image Credit: Christelle Hayek on Unsplash

Residents in Israel this week felt the earthquake and its aftershocks that jolted earthquake hit Turkey and Syria. While the tremor only lasted for a few seconds in Israel, seismic activity is common in Israel and has raised concerns as to whether or not Israel is prepared for an earthquake now. After all, Israel sits on multiple fault lines, including the Sinai microplate. Several geologists have warned that Israel will likely face a major earthquake in the future, although when it may occur remains largely unknown. However, the powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake which hit Turkey and Syria has served as a wake-up call for people in Israel.

A devastating quake occurs in Israel once a century, according to Dr Ittai Kurzon, a seismologist at the Geological Survey of Israel – a public sector organisation responsible for advising the government on all geoscientific issues.

One major concern with an earthquake in Israel now is that much of the infrastructure in the country was built prior to the mid-1980s including schools and hospitals, which are unlikely to withhold an earthquake. Israel’s building code called Standard SI 413 is also designed to make structures more earthquake resistant but it was only introduced in the 1980s and the 100,000 buildings built before then are at risk. Israel also has a Tama 38 program, encouraging apartment blocks designed prior to the 1980s to be remodelled by enabling owners to add or expand apartments, but these programs have had limited impact. However, more modern buildings which have bomb shelters are more likely to sustain an earthquake as they are made of iron which should not break in the event of an earthquake.

However, Israel has taken several steps to prepare itself for an earthquake, which could occur at any time, even now by introducing a warning system. The earthquake warning system detects the initial seismic waves and sends notifications to relevant organizations before the more intense tremors arrive. The system operates automatically and will soon be connected to the distribution capabilities of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Home Front Command, similar to the rocket alert system. When the alert is issued, the public is advised to evacuate, but the effectiveness of the evacuation will largely depend on the proximity to the earthquake’s epicentre. When an alert is received, for example, if an earthquake were to happen in Israel now citizens should try to exit buildings in a safe manner. If that is not possible, they should go to the closest bomb shelter, and if that is also not possible, they should take cover under furniture or something else solid. The project has incurred a cost of $13 million for Israel, and it will become operational on March 1st. However, according to experts, this is far from sufficient to protect the country.

Residents in Lebanon this week felt the earthquake and its aftershocks that jolted earthquake hit Turkey and Syria. While the tremor only lasted for a few seconds in Lebanon, seismic activity is common in Lebanon and the Lebanese Civil Defense has issued a series of guidelines to help protect individuals in the event of an earthquake. This comes after a 4.9 magnitude earthquake was felt in Lebanon on Sunday night, followed by several aftershocks. The guidelines provide advice on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake, as well as in various different situations such as indoors, outside, in a public place, in a vehicle, and in elevators.

Before an earthquake

The guidelines recommend that individuals secure their furniture and objects before an earthquake, repair cracks in walls, and identify safe places both inside and outside of their home. They also advise that families develop an emergency plan and set up a meeting place.

During an earthquake

During an earthquake, individuals are encouraged to stay indoors, take shelter under a sturdy table, stay away from windows and other objects that could fall, and turn off power sources. Those outside are advised to move away from buildings and trees, and avoid taking shelter under them. In a public place, individuals are advised to avoid going to the exit door and move away from any objects that could fall.

For individuals in a vehicle, the guidelines recommend staying calm, parking on the right side of the road, avoiding bridges and tunnels, and taking refuge away from buildings, walls, and electrical installations. Those in elevators are advised to stop at the nearest floor and take the emergency stairs.

After an earthquake

It is recommended to boil water after an earthquake if there is a concern that the water supply may have been contaminated. Boiling water for at least one minute can kill harmful bacteria and viruses that may be present. It is also important to use safe water sources and to avoid drinking water that may have been contaminated with chemicals or other harmful substances. Following an earthquake, it is also important to check for gas leaks as well as any electrical damage and if you smell gas, turn off the main gas valve, open windows, and leave the building immediately. Avoid using elevators and take the stairs if needed due to the potential for aftershocks.

The Lebanese Civil Defense hopes that these guidelines will help keep individuals safe in the event of an earthquake. They also urge the public to take them seriously and to prepare themselves in advance.

Dozens of countries around the world have sent aid to Turkey and Syria after a powerful earthquake killed over 5,000 people and left thousands more injured. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue efforts continue among the rubble of cities, towns and provinces in both countries. In Turkey, over 7,800 people have been rescued across 10 provinces so far.

Multiple countries and international organizations are offering medical aid and other forms of aid and support to Turkey and Syria after the recent disaster.

The European Union has mobilized 27 search and rescue and

medical teams from 19 countries, with over 1,150 rescuers and 70 rescue dogs.

The United States is sending two search and rescue teams of 79 people each and coordinating with Turkish counterparts through the Pentagon and USAID.

China is sending rescue and medical teams along with $5.9 million in emergency aid. The UK is sending a team of 76 search and rescue specialists, equipment, and rescue dogs, as well as an emergency medical team.

Russia’s President Putin promised to send teams to both countries and the defence ministry said 300 military personnel are helping with the clean-up effort. The UN is on the ground assessing the needs and providing assistance, while India is sending two National Disaster Response Force teams and doctors with medicines.

Germany will mobilize all the assistance it can, Ukraine is ready to provide necessary assistance, Greece’s Prime Minister pledged to make every force available to aid Turkey, Israel approved the sending of aid to Syria and Turkey, and Gulf states such as Qatar and the UAE are also providing aid. Iran is ready to provide immediate relief aid, Algeria sent a 89-member risk-management team with equipment to Turkey and another team to Syria, Tunisia ordered humanitarian aid for both countries and is appealing for volunteer medics, and Japan is dispatching its Disaster Relief Rescue Team.

But reports suggest that the delivery of aid including medical aid into northern Syria is being hampered by disputes over control of the aid, as well as the weather, destroyed roads, and closed crossing points. The Syrian government is only allowing aid to enter the region through one border crossing, leading to criticism from various international organizations and countries. Historically, the Assad government has opposed cross-border aid, although groups such as Amnesty International have said that help should be delivered regardless of the government’s views.

The UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) has said that many roads are blocked due to the disaster and snow, and that before the earthquake, as many as 4 million people were dependent on aid from across the border. The UK has said it will work with the White Helmets civilian defense force to send aid into northern Syria, but more crossing points from Turkey need to be opened.

The city of Aleppo, already struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the Syrian civil war, has been hit by a powerful earthquake that has claimed over 1,400 lives. The quake caused widespread destruction, with many buildings collapsing and trapping people beneath the rubble.

In the region, the conditions were already challenging with frigid temperatures, dilapidated structures, and a cholera outbreak affecting the population. The area is divided between the government, Kurdish-led forces, and various insurgent factions, all of whom are still engaged in ongoing conflict.

Rebuilding efforts had been underway to restore the former commercial center of Syria, but the infrastructure remains in ruins, buildings are in shambles, and power shortages are frequent. The death toll from the earthquake, reported by both the Syrian government and the opposition-run White Helmets rescue group, has surpassed 1,400.

The earthquake hit at 4:17 am local time, registering a 7.8 magnitude with a depth of 11 miles. A second, nearly as powerful quake occurred 12 hours later, located 80 miles north of the first epicenter. The Syrian Civil Defence is calling for the global community to take action and help the affected area.

Residents of the region have expressed the dire circumstances, with one resident of Jandairis revealing that 12 members of his family perished in the quake and others still trapped beneath the debris. Emergency services are available in government-run areas, but rescue efforts are being hindered by the icy temperatures and heavy rainfall.

The International Rescue Committee, which has a significant presence in opposition-held areas of Syria, had already been responding to the area’s first cholera outbreak in over a decade and preparing for an upcoming snowstorm when the earthquake struck. The organization’s Middle East advocacy director described the situation as a “crisis within a crisis within a crisis,” and added that large parts of the region are out of reach due to damage to communication networks.

North-western Syria has become one of the hardest places to access, making it difficult for aid from outside nations to reach the affected population. The only way to get resources to opposition-controlled zones is through a small crossing on the Turkish border.

Image Credit: Youssef Karwashan