Chinese embassy staff wake to predawn air strikes on Damascus
Mission says 83 nationals and ‘overseas Chinese’ safe and sound after US-led bombing raids
Workers at the Chinese embassy in the Syrian capital were woken by the sounds of bombing before dawn on Saturday, but there were no reports of anyone being injured, according to an official at the scene.
“I clearly heard the explosions and saw the smoke rising from numerous locations in downtown Damascus,” Ma Xuliang, the embassy’s political counsellor, told the South China Morning Post.
The US-led air strikes started about 4am and lasted for more than an hour, he said.
Ma said that no one working at the mission had been hurt, but that the situation was being closely monitored and preparations had been made to evacuate people if necessary.
“As of this moment, none of the 83 Chinese, including embassy staff, citizens and overseas Chinese, in Syria have been hurt or killed,” he said over the telephone.
“The embassy [building] remains intact and we are keeping a close eye on things … but at as we stand, the situation is not bad enough for us to withdraw the Chinese nationals,” the official said.
“If the tension escalates … for instance, if ground wars break out, and there is a threat to the safety of Chinese nationals, the embassy and its staff members, we will waste no time in evacuating our compatriots. We are well prepared and have had a contingency plan … since well before the attack.”
Ma said that embassy workers had contacted every Chinese national and “overseas Chinese” living in Syria to ensure they were safe.
He said also he had been told the US-led bombing operation had finished and that there were no plans for further air strikes. US President Donald Trump, however, said he was prepared to sustain the attacks on Syria until Bashar al-Assad’s government stopped its use of chemical weapons.
US, British and French forces were involved in the strikes, which were staged in response to last week’s poison gas attack in the city of Douma, which killed dozens of people.
Xinhua reported earlier that the embassy in Damascus had issued a warning to all Chinese citizens and tour groups to avoid travelling to Syria at the present time.