Sub-zero weather conditions and snowfall in the devastated region have increased hardship for rescue workers.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared seven days of national mourning, and Syria has appealed to the United Nations for help following devastating earthquakes that killed more than 4,000 people and toppled buildings in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria.
Authorities fear the death toll from the 7.8-magnitude quake before dawn on Monday, followed by a 7.6-magnitude earthquake and several aftershocks, will continue to rise as rescuers searched for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete scattered across a region already suffering under Syria’s 12-year civil war and a refugee crisis.
Rescuers searched through the cold night into Tuesday morning, hoping to pull more survivors out of the rubble as those trapped screamed for help under mountains of rubble.
Yunus Sezer, head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), gave the death toll in Turkey at 2,921, while another 15,834 were injured.
Freezing winter weather and snowfall in the devastated region have added to the plight of many thousands of people injured and homeless by the quake. Toppled buildings and destroyed roads have hampered efforts to find survivors and bring crucial aid to affected areas.
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said millions of people need help.
“And their need is even more acute because its winter and they’re facing cold temperatures, snow, and rain.”
Ten cities in southern Turkey have been declared disaster zones, according to Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Istanbul. Sub-zero temperatures and snow have hampered rescue efforts, and more bad weather is expected to hit the region. The supply of electricity and natural gas has been cut in many areas and the government is working to restore both services.
“A full picture of the devastation is just beginning to emerge, a devastation that will likely become more apparent as the sun rises” on Tuesday, Ghoneim said.
Seismic activity continued to rattle the region on Monday, including another jolt almost as powerful as the initial quake.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured the initial quake at 7.8, with a depth of 11 miles (18 km). Hours later, a magnitude 7.6 tremor also hit. The second jolt caused a multi-story apartment building in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa to collapse on the street in a cloud of dust as passersby screamed, according to video of the scene.
Dramatic video footage broadcast on Turkish television showed buildings collapsing in real-time. Footage showed rescuers pulling a child alive from a crushed building. The boy was reunited with his distraught parents on snow-covered streets.
More than 7,800 people have been rescued in 10 provinces, according to Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s disaster management authority. Overburdened medical facilities have quickly filled with injured people, rescuers said.
The Syrian-American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria and southern Turkey, said in a statement that its facilities were “overwhelmed with patients filling the corridors” and urgently called for “trauma supplies and a comprehensive emergency response to save lives and treat the wounded.”
Governments and aid agencies have rushed to deploy personnel, funds, and equipment in Turkey and Syria.
Jordan is sending emergency aid to Syria and Turkey on the orders of King Abdullah II, while Egypt has pledged urgent humanitarian aid to Turkey. Lebanon’s cash-strapped government is also sending Red Cross and Civil Defense rescuers and firefighters to Turkey to help with its rescue efforts.
The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams, and the bloc’s Copernicus satellite system has been activated to provide emergency mapping services. At least 13 member countries have offered assistance. The UK and US said they are also ready to send aid to Syria, but Washington has ruled out dealing directly with the Syrian government.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said it is coordinating its aid response with EU partners and preparing deliveries of emergency generators, tents, blankets, and water treatment equipment.
The United States is coordinating immediate assistance to NATO member Turkey, including teams to support search and rescue efforts. In California, nearly 100 Los Angeles County firefighters and structural engineers, along with six specially trained dogs, were sent to Turkey to help with rescue efforts.
Russian rescue teams from the Emergencies Ministry are preparing to fly to Syria, where the Russian military deployed in that country has already sent 10 units made up of 300 people to help clear the rubble and search for survivors. The Russian military has set up points to distribute humanitarian assistance. Russia has also offered aid to Turkey, which has been accepted.
Source: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES