Turkey earthquakes: Death toll could rise eight-fold, surpass 20,000, warns WHO

The aftermath of the deadly earthquakes in Turkey. [Photo: Twitter/ AlinejadMasih]

Following the back-to-back earthquakes in Turkey, near Syria’s border, that left more than four thousand people dead, the World Health Organisation has warned that the death toll could rise eight-fold and surpass 20,000.

Earlier in the day, the death toll stood over 4,372 and thousands were reported injured in powerful earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, according to agencies and officials. So far, Turkey and Syria were hit by four consecutive devastating earthquakes.

Turkey’s toll rose to 2,921 as of Tuesday morning, reports said quoting Yunus Sezer, Turkey’s head of disaster services.

A total of 15,834 injuries have been reported, Sezer said in a news conference in Ankara. Sezer said he would provide a more comprehensive update later. In Syria, 1,451 deaths and 3,531 injuries have been reported by officials.

The magnitude 7.8 quake brought down whole apartment blocks in Turkish cities and piled more devastation on millions of Syrians displaced by years of war.

It struck before sunrise in harsh weather and was followed in the early afternoon by another large quake.

Rescue efforts are ongoing, and the number of people killed, injured and displaced probably will climb, reported Washington Post. The initial quake of 7.8-magnitude was followed by dozens of powerful aftershocks, including one recorded at 7.5 magnitudes in the same fault zone of south-central Turkey on Monday afternoon. Most of the damage is in southern Turkey and northern and central Syria.

It is the strongest earthquake to hit Turkey in more than 80 years. Thousands of emergency responders have been searching for people amid the rubble of collapsed buildings, and medical teams have been tending to the injured. The full scale of the damage is still being determined.

Meanwhile, the global health body’s senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, told AFP, “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”.

Smallwood added that the snowy conditions will leave many people without shelter, adding to the dangers.

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