Turkey-Syria Quake: Death toll passes 20,000, UN warns of second disaster
Although the full extent of Monday’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria is still unclear, more than 20,000 people in the two countries are now known to have been killed. Rescue work is still in full power, but hopes are gradually fading almost 100 hours since the tremors struck.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the quake “the disaster of the century“. It was powerful enough to kill scores of people in their sleep, level thousands of buildings, including historical monuments, and cause survivors to rush into the streets in freezing conditions in their pyjamas.
The World Bank on Thursday pledged $1.78 billion in aid to Turkey, including immediate finance to rebuild basic infrastructure and support the affected residents.
The full extent of the catastrophe is quite unclear in Syria where years of civil war have devastated the country. On Thursday, the first UN humanitarian aid crossed Idlib’s Bab al-Hawa crossing into rebel-held northwest Syria. The crossing is the only way UN aid can be supplied to the region without it going through Syrian government forces.
Delivering the much-needed humanitarian aid to the area has been quite challenging as roads to the only UN-approved point of entry have been damaged by Monday’s pre-dawn quake and hundreds of aftershocks.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres promised more help was on its way and requested the UN Security Council to allow safe passage of supplies through more border crossings.
The White Helmets rescue group, however, took to Twitter to express its disappointment over the only UN convoy that reached the region not containing specialised equipment “to help us save lives from under the rubble.”
The latest death toll surpasses the more than 17,000 killed when a similar earthquake hit Turkey in 1999.
Currently, freezing conditions are threatening the lives of tens of thousands of survivors, who are without food and water, and are spending a fourth night taking refuge from bitter temperatures in makeshift shelters.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised concerns over a second humanitarian disaster striking the two countries unless survivors get access to food, water, shelter, and medicine “very fast”.