Deaths in Turkey, Syria earthquake could exceed 50,000
Head of the UN earthquake relief said the death toll could “double or more” above its current level of about 28,000
The head of the United Nations relief for the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, Martin Griffiths, said that the death toll could “double or more” above its current level of about 28,000 victims.
Griffiths arrived in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaraş yesterday to see the work being done and get a better understanding of the needs.
While there, he gave a brief interview with Sky News.
When asked about the number of dead and what he thinks the final count will be, he responded, “We haven’t yet begun to really count the ultimate number who may have died.”
The collapsed buildings and lack of sufficient equipment to excavate all the buildings within the 72-hour “golden period” is a large problem.
“I think it’s really difficult to estimate, obviously very precisely because we need to get under the rubble, but I’m sure it will double or more,” said Griffiths.
He said he was moved by the overwhelming support from the international community.
“The extraordinary response to this, the most disastrous earthquake in 100 years. The extraordinary response both by Turkey, but also internationally, it’s quite phenomenal, and it’s heartening.”
“Over 100 countries have sent people here,” he noted.
The World Health Organization estimates that around 26 million people have been affected by the earthquake and hopes to raise around $43 million to help with immediate health needs.
The UN estimates there may be as many as 5.3 million homeless in Syria alone as a result of the high-magnitude earthquake, with at least 870,000 people in Turkey and Syria in need of hot meals.
The earthquake caused the most damage in opposition-controlled areas of Syria that have not been able to get resources for rebuilding.
Griffiths also said there is additional concern for a national health emergency in Syria, particularly cholera.
The International Rescue Committee, a charity operating in opposition-controlled areas of Syria, said it was already treating cases of cholera.
There is currently only one crossing into opposition-held areas, located at the border with Turkey.
Griffiths said the Syrian government’s announcement that it is opening up access to the its northwest region is “a good step, but we need to do more.”
There is a need for more crossing points, he said. “There is a very clear humanitarian case for it.” Adding that the transition from rescue efforts to humanitarian aid will be happening over the next couple of days.
“Soon, the search and rescue people will make way for the humanitarian agencies whose job it is to look after the extraordinary numbers of those affected for the next months,” Griffiths posted on social media.
Israeli humanitarian aid group IsraAID emphasized the importance of massive clean water access in the region. While IsraAID brought filters to the relief efforts in Turkey, they said more will be needed.
“Lack of water means lack of hygiene,” according to Shachar May, IsraAID’s press officer. “Without enough water, people will be unable to clean themselves properly, leading to increased disease.”