Aftershocks, freezing temperatures and damaged roads are hampering efforts to reach and rescue those affected by Monday’s earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria, which has killed more than 7,800 people and destroyed thousands of buildings.
As the scale of the devastation from the 7.8-magnitude tremor continued to unfold, the World Health Organization warned the number of deaths could exceed 20,000. Initial rescue efforts were stalled by a second quake on Monday that measured 7.7 magnitude. Adelheid Marschang, a WHO senior emergency officer, has said about 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, are likely to be affected by the quake.
In Turkey, 5,894 people have been killed in the quake, with around 32,000 injured. The number of confirmed deaths in Syria rose to 1,932 on Tuesday night, bringing the death toll in both countries to 7,826.
Turkey’s disaster management agency said it had 11,342 reports of collapsed buildings, of which 5,775 had been confirmed. Turkey’s ministry of transport and infrastructure said that overnight 3,400 people took shelter in trains being used as emergency accommodation.
Turkey has deployed more than 24,400 search and rescue personnel to the quake area. The number was expected to rise with the arrival of additional people, the disaster management agency official Orhan Tatar said.
Syria was accused of playing politics with aid after the Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bassam Sabbagh, said his country should be responsible for the delivery of all aid into Syria, including those areas not under Syrian government control. The dispute over the control of the aid is hampering efforts into northern Syria, which is held by rebel groups. The government in Damascus allows aid to enter the region through only one border crossing.
The UN’s cultural agency Unesco said on Tuesday it was ready to provide assistance after two sites listed on its world heritage list in Syria and Turkey sustained damage in the earthquake. As well as the damage to the old city of Syria’s Aleppo and the fortress in the south-eastern Turkish city of Diyarbakır, Unesco said at least three other world heritage sites could be affected.
A fire at the port of İskenderun on the Mediterranean Sea has continued for a second day. Television images showed thick black smoke rising from burning containers that had toppled when the quake struck on Monday.
In Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, the news of 24 junior high-school students being rescued from a collapsed hotel in the south-eastern city of Adıyaman in Turkey has been met with relief. The students, members of a volleyball team, were in the city to compete in a sports event when their eight-floor hotel collapsed.
Police in Turkey said on Tuesday they had detained four people over “provocative” social media posts. The four individuals were held after officers found accounts that shared “provocative posts aiming to create fear and panic”, the police said.