Local residents walk in front of a destroyed building in Nurdagi, southeastern Turkey. [Source: Aljazeera]
The total death toll from the earthquakes that struck southwest Turkey and northern Syria on Monday has climbed to above 20,000, a tally that is expected to rise as crews comb the rubble of thousands of toppled buildings.
Turkey’s disaster agency raised the country’s confirmed death toll on Thursday night to 17,406, while the number of lives lost in neighbouring Syria stood at 3,317.
Although the chances of finding more people alive faded after the passage of more than 72 hours since the devastating earthquakes, rescue workers in Adana, Turkey pulled out 45-year-old Akgun Eker alive from under the rubble.
Earlier in Turkey, a two-year-old boy was rescued from a collapsed building in Antakya, and an eight-year-old boy was found in Diyarbakir. The two had been trapped for nearly 80 hours under the rubble.
As rescue efforts continued, tens of thousands of survivors were evacuated from the worst-affected Turkish cities. Meanwhile, civilians in Syrian towns helped bury their dead who were killed in the quake.
But human rights groups sharply criticised the delivery’s timing and content.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for more aid access to northwestern Syria from Turkey as he sought an expanded mandate from the UN Security Council to allow UN help to be delivered through more than one border crossing. Currently, the Bab al-Hawa border crossing is the only viable route for UN aid.
Meanwhile, UN Syria mediator Geir Pedersen appealed to the Syrian government not to obstruct relief supplies for earthquake-affected people in regions outside government control.
With more aid needed for Syria, several Western countries pledged to increase the amount of humanitarian assistance they provide to the Middle Eastern country, which has already been shattered by a civil war ongoing since 2011.
Germany promised an increase of 26 million euros ($28m) to Syria, France pledged 12 million euros (almost $13m) in emergency aid, and the United Kingdom said it was committing an additional three million pounds ($3.64m) to support search-and-rescue operations and emergency relief in Syria.