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Reviewing The Status Of Evacuations In Eastern Aleppo

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's turn now to the Syrian city of Aleppo, where it appears this morning evacuations are resuming. And what a different story from Friday, when we heard a voice of desperation. Pawel Krzysiek from the International Committee of the Red Cross described people who endured airstrikes, lost family members and were waiting in the cold feeling like they were finally getting their chance to escape.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PAWEL KRZYSIEK: You see thousands - thousands of people waiting, you know, waiting to go, burning plastic to get a little warm. We've been there at night. It was extremely cold and the people, you know, didn't want to leave the place because they were afraid that tomorrow might be just late and they might lose their turn.

GREENE: A Russian-led evacuation from the rebel-held eastern part of the city was underway. Buses were moving, but then it became unclear if anyone else would get their turn because the evacuation was stopped for several days, trapping injured residents in bitter cold in neighborhoods that barely exist. By yesterday, crowds were growing. Fifteen thousand people gathered in a square in east Aleppo, waiting for the buses. According to Elizabeth Hoff, The World Health Organization's representative to Syria, the conditions there are dire. We reached her earlier this morning on Skype.

ELIZABETH HOFF: Winter has come to Aleppo, and many of them came out without warm clothing - children without socks and shoes.

GREENE: The temperatures this weekend dipped into the low 20s, well below freezing. Hoff told us that over the last few weeks, more than 39,000 people have fled the bombardment of eastern Aleppo to seek refuge in shelters elsewhere in the city, but the shelters are just not adequate.

HOFF: They registered at the shelter, took their food rations and tried to move on because even the shelters are in very poor condition without proper windows and proper doors. So it's cold inside and no proper heating.

GREENE: And Hoff told us about some of the people she has met - parents looking for lost children, elderly men and women trying to survive bitterly cold nights.

HOFF: I met an old man who was 72 years old. He was very skinny. He had come out of eastern Aleppo. And he had slept overnight in the shelter. And he said that I have gotten one mattress and two blankets, but my family didn't make it into the shelter, so they are sitting outside. And they didn't get mattresses, just the blankets. And when I woke up in the morning, my whole body was stiff. I felt like I was almost dead. I had to break loose my arms and my legs. These were his words. And then I was only thinking that my situation was supposed to better than my family's.

GREENE: And there was another family.

HOFF: I also met a pregnant woman who had five other children, and her husband died in the fighting two weeks before. She had a little small handbag and a plastic bag in her other hand. And she said this is all what I was managing to bring from our home in the besieged part of east Aleppo. I don't know where to go for the children. I don't know how to manage.

GREENE: Hearing the stories of Syrian families there from Elizabeth Hoff. She's the World Health Organization's representative to the country, speaking to us earlier from Damascus. Now, we can tell you the buses are moving again today. And this morning, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution putting U.N. observers on the ground to monitor the evacuation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.