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Earthquake death toll faces significant increase in Turkiye and Syria

February 7, 2023 at 12:44 pm

A view of a collapsed building as search and rescue works continue after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit the southern provinces of Turkiye, in Hatay, Turkiye on February 6, 2023. [Halis Kalkan/Anadolu Agency]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the violent earthquake that struck south-east Turkiye and neighbouring Syria on Sunday night-Monday morning could see a significant increase in the death toll. At the time of writing, the number of those killed in the earthquake had passed the 5,000 mark.

“We always see the same thing with earthquakes, unfortunately, which is that the initial reports of the numbers of people who have died or who have been injured will increase quite significantly in the week that follows,” explained the WHO senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood. “There’s continued potential of further collapses to happen so we do often see in the order of eight-fold increases on the initial numbers.”

Since the moment of the first earthquake that struck at 4:17 local time (1:17 GMT) in the Pazardzhik province, about 60 km from the Syrian border, the toll has continued to rise because a large number of people are still under the rubble of thousands of destroyed buildings.

“For other people who can’t go back to their homes they will be meeting and gathering in collective environments,” said Smallwood. “And that will also pose particular risks if they’re not well catered for, if there’s no heating, but also due to overcrowding.” Risks include respiratory viruses.

On Monday night, the Turkish authorities announced that the death toll from the earthquake had risen to 2,379, and the injured to 15,834. Earlier, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay announced that 7,840 survivors had been pulled out of the rubble and 4,748 buildings had been completely destroyed.

In Syria, at least 1,444 people have been killed. The regime’s Ministry of Health announced that the death toll has risen to 711, and 1,431 others have been injured in government-controlled areas in the governorates of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartous.

The White Helmets rescue group, which operates in the northern regions of Syria outside the control of the regime, reported that 733 people were killed and more than 2,100 others were injured.

Rain, snow and very low temperatures at the onset of darkness on Monday evening have complicated the rescue efforts and the conditions of the people displaced by the earthquake.

READ: Nations rush to aid Turkiye, Syria as second earthquake brings death toll to over 2,300