A huge rescue effort is continuing in Turkey and Syria to find survivors from Monday’s earthquakes which killed over 15,000 people, and in which the death toll is expected to continue to rise.
The World Health Organisation has warned of a secondary disaster as hundreds of thousands of people remain without shelter or basic facilities.
‘We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster if we don’t move with the same pace and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue,” Robert Holden, the WHO’s earthquake response incident manager told journalists.
“We’ve got a lot of people who have survived now out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions,” he explained. “This is no easy task… The scale of the operation is massive.”
Overnight, thousands of Turkish soldiers along with international teams continued to dig through rubble in a frantic search for survivors. The bitter cold is exacerbating the situation as freezing air blankets much of this region.
The death toll is likely to rise as thousands of buildings were destroyed and multiple aftershocks are hampering rescue efforts.
Earlier this week, the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 of the country’s provinces hit by the quakes. At the same time, anger is mounting that poor enforcement of construction regulations contributed to the collapse of many buildings.
Though the region where the quake struck is traversed by fault lines, no one was prepared for the heavy destruction and loss of life. It is estimated that about 13.5 million people are affected by the disaster.
Over in Syria, many were killed or left injured and homeless in Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, Tartous districts, and rebel-held areas in Idlib province.
The United Nations has released U$ 25 million from its emergency fund to help activate the humanitarian response in Syria and Turkey.
Separately, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) says the quake – which measured 7.8 – was one of the strongest that Turkey has experienced in the last century.