Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Tuesday that 35,418 people have died in Turkey as a result of last week’s earthquake, making it the deadliest disaster since the country’s founding 100 years ago.
Confirmed deaths exceeded those recorded from the massive 1939 Erzincan earthquake that killed an estimated 33,000 people.
Erdogan said 105,505 people were injured as a result of the February 6 earthquake centered on Kahramanmaras and its aftershocks.
Nearly 3,700 deaths have been confirmed in neighboring Syria, bringing the combined toll in both countries to more than 39,000.
The Turkish president, who has referred to the quakes as “the disaster of the century”, said more than 13,000 people were still being treated at the hospital.
Speaking in Ankara after a five-hour cabinet meeting held at the headquarters of the AFAD disaster agency, Erdogan said 47,000 buildings, containing 211,000 residences, had been destroyed or were damaged enough to require demolition.
“We will continue our work until we get our last citizen out of the destroyed buildings,” Erdogan said of the ongoing rescue efforts.
Aid agencies and governments stepped up their efforts to get aid to the devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, but a week after the disaster, many of the people left homeless were still struggling to meet their basic needs, such as finding shelter from the cold. intense.
The situation was particularly dire in Syria, where a 12-year civil war has complicated relief efforts.
On Tuesday, the United Nations launched an appeal for US$397 million (£326 million) to provide “vital and desperately needed relief for nearly five million Syrians” over three months.
It came a day after the global body announced a deal with Damascus to deliver UN aid via two more border crossings from Turkey to rebel-held areas in northwestern Syria, but the needs remained huge.
Ahmed Ismail Suleiman has set up a blanket shelter in front of his damaged house in the town of Jinderis, one of the hardest-hit communities in northwestern Syria.
He was afraid of moving his family back into a house that might not be structurally sound, so 18 people slept outside under the makeshift tent.
“We sit but we can’t sleep lying here,” he said. “We are waiting for a suitable tent.”
Mahmoud Haffar, head of the town hall, said residents have been able to secure some 2,500 tents so far, but some 1,500 families are still without shelter as nighttime temperatures drop to around minus 4C.
“We are on day nine and we are still hearing the question of when help will arrive,” Haffar said.
Offers of help, from rescue teams and doctors to generators and food, have poured in from around the world, but the needs remain immense in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake and powerful aftershocks that toppled or damaged tens of thousands of buildings, they destroyed roads and closed airports for a while. time.
The earthquake affected 10 provinces of Turkey that are home to some 13.5 million people, as well as a large area in northwestern Syria that is home to millions.
Much of the water system in the quake-hit region was not working, and Turkey’s health minister said samples from dozens of points in the system showed the water was unfit to drink.
In the Turkish port city of Iskenderun, displaced families have been sheltering in train carriages since last week.
While many have left in recent days for nearby camps or to other parts of Turkey, dozens of people were still living on the trains on Tuesday.
“The wagons have become our home,” Nida Karahan, 50, told Anadolu Agency.
While a first Saudi aid plane, carrying 35 tons of food, landed in Syrian government-controlled Aleppo on Tuesday, getting aid to the country’s rebel-held Idlib has been especially tricky.
Until Monday’s deal between the UN and the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, the global body had only been allowed to deliver aid to the area through a single border crossing with Turkey, or through government territory.
The newly opened crossings at Bab al-Salameh and Al Raee will operate for an initial period of three months.
Major humanitarian organizations welcomed the development but warned that logistical problems remain, even as the first UN aid convoy of 11 trucks entered northwestern Syria via Bab al-Salameh on Tuesday.
“This is a constant back and forth in the negotiations,” World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said. “Each party has to agree to receive convoys.”
More than 200 hours after the quake, professor Emine Akgul was taken from an apartment building in Antakya by a mining search and rescue team, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
In Adiyaman province, rescuers caught up with 18-year-old Muhammed Cafer Cetin and doctors gave him an intravenous line of fluids before attempting a dangerous extrication from a building that collapsed further as rescuers worked.
Doctors fitted him with a neck brace and took him away on a stretcher with an oxygen mask, Turkish television showed.