Turkiye-Syria earthquake death toll crosses 21,000
The death toll from the strong earthquake in Turkiye and Syria continued on the rise, topping 21,000 as the first UN aid reached Syria. Experts fear the number will continue to rise sharply.
Chances of finding survivors have dimmed now that the 72-hour mark that experts consider the most likely period to save lives has passed.
The 7.8-magnitude quake struck early Monday as people slept, in a region where many had already suffered loss and displacement due to Syria’s civil war.
The World Health Organization (WHO) chief said he was on his way to Syria, as bitter cold hampered the search of thousands of flattened buildings.
“On my way to Syria, where WHO is supporting essential health care in the areas affected by the recent earthquake,” Tedros tweeted.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to authorise the opening of new cross-border humanitarian aid points between Turkey and Syria to deliver aid.
Four million people living in rebel-held areas of northwest Syria have had to rely on the Bab al-Hawa crossing as part of a cross-border aid operation authorised by the Security Council nearly a decade ago.
Temperatures in the Turkish city of Gaziantep plunged to minus five degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) early Thursday, but thousands of families spent the night in cars and makeshift tents — too scared or banned from returning to their homes.
Gyms, mosques, schools and some stores have opened at night. But beds are still at a premium and thousands spend the nights in cars with engines running to provide heat.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged on Wednesday that there were “shortcomings” in the government’s handling of the disaster.
Monday’s quake was the largest Turkey has seen since 1939, when 33,000 people died in the eastern Erzincan province.