KAHRAMARAS/ANTAKIA, Turkey – The official death toll from a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria rose to more than 8,700 on Wednesday as overwhelmed aid workers warned that the toll could rise significantly with families buried under rubble. will grow
In Turkey, many people spent a second night of freezing temperatures sleeping in their cars or under blankets on the streets, anxious to get back into buildings rocked by Monday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake – the worst in 1999. The latter is the country’s deadliest.
“Where are the tents, where are the food trucks?” In the southern city of Antakya, 64-year-old Malik said he saw no rescue teams.
“Unlike previous disasters in our country, we have not seen food distribution here. We survived the earthquake, but we will die of hunger or cold here.”
With the scale of the devastation ever clearer, the death toll – now 6,234 in Turkey – is likely to continue to rise.
In neighboring Syria, already ravaged by 11 years of war, the death toll rose to more than 2,500 overnight, according to a rescue service working in the Syrian government- and rebel-held northwest.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. But residents of several devastated cities in Turkey have expressed anger and frustration at what they say has been a slow and inadequate response from authorities.
The initial quake struck just after 4 a.m. Monday, the last aftershock of the winter night, giving the sleeping population little chance to react.
Erdogan, who faces a tough election in May, is expected to visit some of the affected areas on Wednesday.
Turkish officials say about 13.5 million people have been affected in an area stretching about 280 miles from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east – wider than the distance between Boston and Philadelphia, or Amsterdam and Paris.
‘under the rubble’
The quake, followed hours later by another nearly as powerful, toppled thousands of buildings, including hospitals, schools and apartment blocks, injured tens of thousands, and displaced countless people in Turkey and northern Syria.
Aid workers have struggled to reach the worst-hit areas due to damaged roads, bad weather and a lack of resources and heavy equipment. Some areas are without fuel and electricity.
Aid officials expressed particular concern about the situation in Syria, where humanitarian needs are greater than ever since the outbreak of a conflict that has divided the nation and complicated aid efforts. were
Rescue efforts face a race against time, with chances of finding survivors slipping by the minute and hour, the head of the World Health Organization has said.
A rescue service working in Syria’s rebel-held northwest said the death toll had risen to more than 1,280 and more than 2,600 were injured.
The rescue service said on Twitter that the number is expected to rise significantly after 50 hours of the earthquake due to the presence of hundreds of families under the rubble.
Overnight, Syria’s health minister said the death toll in government-held areas had risen to 1,250, state news agency Al-Akhbariya reported on its Telegram feed. He said that the number of injured was 2,054.
Turkey’s deadliest earthquake in a generation has handed Erdogan a huge rescue and reconstruction challenge, overshadowing the run-up to an election in May that is already one of the most difficult of his two decades in power. It was a tough election.
Before the earthquake, polls predicted the closely-held vote would determine how Turkey’s government is run, where its economy is headed, and regional power and de-escalation of conflicts in NATO member Ukraine and the Middle East. What role can you play?
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