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WORLD NEWS | Rising death toll makes quake deadliest in Turkey’s modern history

WORLD NEWS | Rising death toll makes quake deadliest in Turkey’s modern history

The LATAM Airlines plane hit the vehicle on the runway (Image: Twitter / @AirCrash_)

ANTAKYA, Feb. 15 (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Tuesday that an earthquake in Turkey last week that killed more than 35,000 people marked the 100th anniversary of the country’s founding. The worst disaster of its kind.

While the death toll is almost certain to rise further, many of the tens of thousands of homeless survivors are still struggling to meet basic needs, such as finding shelter from the freezing cold.

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Turkey’s confirmed death toll exceeds that recorded in the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, which killed an estimated 33,000 people.

Erdogan said 1,05,505 people were injured by the Feb. 6 earthquake near Kahramanmaras and its aftershocks. Neighboring Syria has confirmed nearly 3,700 deaths, bringing the combined death toll in both countries to more than 39,000.

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Turkey’s president called the quake the “disaster of the century” and said more than 13,000 people were still in hospital.

Speaking in Ankara after a five-hour cabinet meeting at the headquarters of disaster agency AFAD, Erdogan said 47,000 buildings, including 211,000 homes, had been destroyed or badly damaged and needed to be demolished.

“We will continue our work until we have rescued the last citizen from the destroyed building,” Erdogan said of the ongoing rescue efforts.

Aid agencies and governments are stepping up efforts to provide help to devastated areas in Turkey and Syria.

The situation is particularly desperate in Syria, where a 12-year civil war has complicated relief efforts and meant days of debate over how to get aid into the country, let alone distribute it. Some people there said they received nothing. Meanwhile, in Turkey, families huddled in train carriages.

The Syrian Ministry of Health announced that the final death toll in government-controlled areas was 1,414, with 1,357 injured.

On Tuesday, the United Nations launched a three-month $397 million appeal to provide “deeply needed life-saving relief to nearly 5 million Syrians”. It came just a day after the global body announced a deal with Damascus to deliver UN aid through two more crossings from Turkey to rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria – but the need remains huge.

Ahmed Ismail Suleiman builds a blanket shelter outside his damaged home in the town of Jinderis, one of the worst-hit communities in northwestern Syria. He was terrified of moving his family back to a potentially structurally unstable house, so 18 people slept outside under makeshift tents.

“We sit, but we can’t lie down here and sleep,” he said. “We are waiting for a suitable tent.”

Mahmoud Haffar, head of the town council, said residents had been able to find about 2,500 tents so far, but about 1,500 families remained without shelter – as nighttime temperatures dropped to minus 4 degrees Celsius (26 degrees Fahrenheit) or so.

“We … are still hearing the question of when the aid will come in,” Hafar said.

While tents are in short supply, one woman said there is enough bread and water donated by the town to spare.

In the southwest, in government-controlled Latakia, Raeefa Breemo said aid appeared to be coming only to those crammed into shelters.

“We need to eat, we need to drink, we need to survive. Our jobs, our lives, everything stopped,” Bremer said.

Help from rescuers and doctors to generators and food has come from around the world, but the need remains huge after the 7.8-magnitude quake and powerful aftershocks collapsed or damaged tens of thousands of buildings, destroyed roads and closed airports for the time being. The quake affected 10 governorates of Turkiye, home to about 13.5 million people, and a large swath of northwestern Syria, home to millions of people.

Much of the water supply system in the quake-hit area is out of order, and Turkiye’s health minister said samples from dozens of points in the system showed the water was unfit for drinking.

In the Turkish port city of Iskenderun, displaced families have been sheltering in train carriages since last week.

While many had left in recent days for nearby camps or elsewhere in Turkiye, dozens were still living on the train on Tuesday.

“The van has become our home,” Nida Callahan, 50, told Anadolu Agency.

While the first Saudi aid plane carrying 35 tons of food landed in Syrian government-controlled Aleppo on Tuesday, delivering aid to the country’s rebel-held Idlib is particularly complicated.

Until the agreement between the U.N. and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was reached on Monday, the global body was only allowed to send aid to the region through a single border crossing with Turkey or government territory.

The newly opened crossings at Bab al-Salam and Al Raée will initially operate for three months. Russia has bristled at the suggestion that the opening of the crossing could be made permanent, with its foreign ministry accusing the West of trying to send aid “exclusively” to areas not controlled by the Syrian government.

Leading humanitarian organizations welcomed the development but warned that logistical problems remained even as the first 11-truck convoy of U.N. aid entered northwestern Syria through Bab Salam on Tuesday.

“It’s a constant back and forth in the negotiations,” said World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier. “Each party has to agree to take over the convoy.” (AP)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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