BEIRUT (Reuters) - Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict four years ago, a research report based on satellite images said on Thursday.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and nearly four million have fled the country according to the United Nations. The uprising started in 2011 with a pro-democracy movement and a government crackdown and has since spiralled into a civil war.
A coalition of 130 humanitarian and human rights organisations, calling themselves WithSyria, in coordination with scientists based at Wuhan University in China, found that the worst hit area was Aleppo province.
Much of Aleppo city has been destroyed by Syrian air force helicopters dropping barrel bombs, crudely-made explosives that can flatten whole neighbourhoods. The research showed a 97 percent decline in light in Aleppo province.
Raqqa province, where the hard-line Islamic State insurgent group has taken control, saw a decline in light by 96 percent, it said.
The southern province of Damascus, mostly held by the government, saw the smallest decline in light, by 33 percent, the research showed.
Dr Xi Li, lead researcher on the project, said that there was a correlation between a decline in night-time lighting with the number of displaced people from different provinces.
“Eleven million people have fled their homes in terror and millions of buildings have been destroyed,” he said.
“The electricity infrastructure itself is in need of wholesale re-building and repair after incessant and targeted attacks by all parties to the conflict, especially in areas under opposition control.”
The research compared monthly average light captured by satellite images on nights with little cloud cover from March 2011 to March 2015.
“Taken from 500 miles above the earth, these images help us understand the suffering and fear experienced by ordinary Syrians every day, as their country is destroyed around them,” said Dr Xi Li.
The WithSyria coalition is a movement including Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, and the International Federation for Human Rights which says it stands in solidarity with those caught in the conflict.
Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Tom Heneghan