Rescuers in Syria and Turkey are looking for survivors beneath rubble as the death toll of devastating earthquakes surpassed 7,100 in the two countries.
Authorities feared the death toll from Monday’s pre-dawn earthquake and aftershocks would keep climbing as rescuers searched for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete.
Seismic activity continued to rattle the region, including another jolt nearly as powerful as the initial quake. Workers carefully pulled away slabs of concrete and reached for bodies as desperate families waited for news of loved ones.
In the latest official figures, death toll from earthquakes in southern Turkey has risen to 5,434, with injuries surpassing 20,500, said Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay.
Oktay said more than 8,000 people have been rescued from the rubble, noting that 338,000 earthquake victims have been housed in dormitories, universities and shelters, Turkish media reported.
The Turkish disaster agency AFAD said over 16,000 rescuers and more than 3,700 heavy-duty and emergency vehicles are engaged in search efforts for earthquake survivors across Turkey.
Vice President Fuat Oktay on #TurkiyeQuakes:
– 3,419 people killed & 20,534 injured
– Over 8,000 have been rescued
– 312 aftershocks felt as seismic activity remains high pic.twitter.com/PaO9r06ZyK
— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) February 7, 2023
In Syria, health authorities reported that at least 1,712 people were killed and over 2,400 others were wounded, according to Syrian media.
The Syrian Health Ministry reported damage across the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus.
The massive quake, one of the largest to strike the quake-prone area in the past century, is raising fears of a new humanitarian crisis in the region, especially in Syria which is strained by years of war, displacement and economic hardship.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is sending three charter flights with medical supplies to Turkey and Syria, and is “especially concerned about areas where we do not yet have information,” its leader, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.
Aftershocks, winter weather and damage caused by the earthquake are hampering rescue efforts, he added.
The earthquakes continued Tuesday, with the Euro-Med Seismological Centre reporting a series of smaller tremors in the pre-dawn hours.
At least 17 earthquakes have hit the region in just over 24 hours, the center said.
Turkish and Syrian disaster response teams report over 5,600 buildings have been flattened across several cities, including many multi-story apartment blocks that were filled with sleeping residents when the first quake struck.