The earthquake death toll in Turkey and Syria is nearing 8,000 as rescuers struggle in harsh weather conditions.
One UN official says the death toll is likely to rise considerably with the expected number of child deaths to be in the thousands.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan issued a three-month state of emergency for 10 provinces in the country. But, residents in several cities are voicing their anger over what they say is a slow and inadequate response to the country’s worst natural disaster since 1999.
According to Reuters, one resident voiced his despair over the situation.
“There is not even a single person here. We are under the snow, without a home, without anything.”
“What shall I do, where can I go?”
Murat Alinak, the resident, says his home in Malatya had collapsed. He says his relatives are still missing after the 7.8 magnitude quake and its powerful aftershocks toppled hospitals, apartment blocks, and buildings. More than 34,000 residents have been reported as injured, while scores are currently homeless in Turkey and northern Syria.
Turkish authorities say around 13.5 million people are affected in an area spanning roughly 450 kilometres from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east. They have reported deaths as far south as Hama, which is some 250 kilometres from the quake’s epicentre.
The cold weather conditions have seen rescuers struggle to reach some of the worst-hit areas. A reported lack of heavy equipment and resources has combined with destroyed roads to make it very difficult for rescue workers to do their jobs.
The government says it will open up hotels in the tourist city of Antalya to house people temporarily.
Some areas are also without fuel or electricity, further complicating rescue efforts. Aid officials in Syria have voiced concern as the country has already been strongly afflicted by a humanitarian crisis after 12 years of civil war.
The World Health Organisation Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented on the disaster.
“It’s now a race against time. Every minute, every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive diminishes.”
Meanwhile, Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation announced yesterday that it will deploy a 20-member Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team to Turkey.
The USAR Thailand team will consist of fully equipped experts trained in search and rescue operations at both national and international levels. The team is on standby and will depart as soon as it receives the go-ahead from Turkish authorities.
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