BEIRUT, March 6 (Reuters) – Residents of Baba Amr who fled to Lebanon said the smell of decomposed bodies, sewage and destruction filled the air in the Syrian city of Homs as troops seeking to crush a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad bombarded it into submission.
With aid workers still blocked from reaching the former rebel stronghold and most foreign journalists banned from Syria, witness accounts from residents who fled across the border portrayed a grim picture of conditions in Homs.
“The smell of death was everywhere. We could smell the bodies buried under the rubble all the time,” said Ahmad, who fled to Lebanon last week.
“Bodies are in the streets, many are decomposed but we could not bury them,” he said, speaking at a relative’s house in Lebanon, looking tired with dark circles around his eyes.
“We saw so much death that at the end the sight of a dismembered body of a relative or a friend stopped moving us.”
Residents knew the end was near when, after a month of shelling, the Syrian army blew up a 3-km (2-mile) tunnel they had used to smuggle in essentials keeping them alive.
After that fighters of the Free Syrian Army, citing lack of ammunition and many casualties, urged people to leave.
Men fled to Lebanon, women and children to villages in Homs province. But some did not make it. Activists said last week at least 62 people were killed when they tried to leave Baba Amr.
Those who left said heavy bombardment had razed most of the neighbourhood. Many buildings and houses were flattened, water pipes were blown up and sewage and litter filled the streets.
“I stopped feeling anything when I see people I know dead… Many people started feeling like that – the atrocities we saw were beyond our imagination,” said another former resident, speaking from a secret location as his presence was illegal.
Syrian state television reported residents were returning to Baba Amr, airing footage on Tuesday of dozens of men, women and children walking through grubby streets, passing pock-marked and semi-destroyed buildings.