Turkey-Syria Earthquake: WHO Estimates Death Toll May Cross 20,000 As Freezing Weather And Aftershocks Slow Rescue Efforts

Forbes
Published 1 month ago
Powerful earthquake hits Syria and Turkey

TOPLINE

The death toll from the powerful earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday could rise above 20,000, a World Health Organization official warned late Monday, as ongoing efforts to rescue people trapped under collapsed buildings were impeded by freezing temperatures and a multitude of aftershocks hitting the affected region.

KEY FACTS

Catherine Smallwood, WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe told AFP that the final death toll may see an “eight-fold increase”—a statement made when the official death toll was at 2,600.

On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the chances of finding survivors are diminishing “every minute, every hour that passes.”

More than 5,000 people have died as of Tuesday morning, with a further 25,000 people injured.

Turkish government officials pegged the latest death toll in the country at 3,419, while in Syria, at least 812 people have died in parts of the country under the Assad regime’s control and at least 790 more were killed in rebel-held areas.

As rescuers continue to search for survivors stuck under collapsed buildings, their efforts have been impeded by below-freezing temperatures of 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rescue efforts have also been hampered by at least 312 aftershocks that have rattled the region—including some above a 6.0 magnitude.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

If the estimates are accurate, Monday’s earthquake is on course to become the world’s deadliest natural disaster since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.

TANGENT

A massive fire that broke out in the Turkish port city of Iskenderun on Monday is still ablaze a day later, local media reported. Drone footage of the fire showed several shipping containers engulfed in flames, with large plumes of smoke rising from the area. According to earlier reports, the fire broke out after some of the containers were toppled by the earthquake. Efforts to control the fire are still underway and it is unclear if any casualties are linked to the fire.

KEY BACKGROUND

Early on Monday morning, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused devastation in southern Turkey and northern Syria with tremors being felt in Egypt, Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel. The epicenter of the tremblor was located just 20 miles from the major Turkish city of Gaziantep, according to the United States Geological Survey. About nine hours after the earthquake, the region was struck by a 7.5 magnitude aftershock. In Turkey alone, the earthquake caused the collapse of at least 6,000 buildings. Across the border in Syria, details about the extent of the devastation were still emerging as control of the affected areas is split between the Bashar al-Assad-led Syrian government and anti-Assad rebel forces. The disaster is likely to stretch the country’s already limited healthcare resources, which have been decimated by an ongoing 12-year civil war.

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Death Toll From Earthquake Nears 5,000 In Turkey And Syria (Forbes)

By Siladitya Ray, Forbes Staff