Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll to top 50,000, UN warns
The United Nations says, according to estimates, that the current death toll from the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria may be doubled to 50,000.
The death toll from the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria will "double or more" from its current level, which is approaching 30 thousand, according to the United Nations emergency relief coordinator.
"I think it is difficult to estimate precisely as we need to get under the rubble, but I'm sure it will double or more,” Martin Griffiths said.
"It's deeply shocking... the idea that these mountains of rubble still hold people, some of them still alive,” he said, adding that "we haven't really begun to count the number of dead."
Griffiths arrived in Turkey's southern city of Kahramanmaras on Saturday, the epicenter of the first 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked millions of people on Monday.
Hopes for those trapped under wreckage in Turkey are fading with each passing moment, Griffiths said, as rescue efforts in Syria were nearing completion. "They say 72 hours is the golden period (for rescues)," Griffiths said.
"But just now they have pulled out someone alive, an hour or two ago. It must be incredibly difficult to decide when to stop this rescue phase and move into the next phase, which is also going to have its problems," he added.
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24,617 people have been killed in Turkey and more than 4,000 in Syria, for a total confirmed death toll of 28,191, according to officials and medics.
Up to 5.3 million may be displaced in Syria
Tens of thousands of rescue workers are excavating through flattened neighborhoods and debris in subzero temperatures, with millions now in desperate need of assistance.
More than 32,000 disaster management personnel from Turkish organizations have been deployed in the affected areas and are working on search-and-rescue efforts, according to Turkey's disaster agency.
Apart from the national rescuers, there are also 8,294 international rescuers present. "Soon, the search and rescue people will make way for the humanitarian agencies, whose job is to look after the extraordinary numbers of those affected for the next months," Griffiths said in a video posted on Twitter.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that around 26 million people have been affected by the earthquake as it launched a flash appeal on Saturday for $42.8 million to cope with immediate and overwhelming health needs.
At least 870,000 people in Turkey and Syria require hot meals right now, according to the UN. In Syria alone, up to 5.3 million people may have been displaced.
Conditions in Syria are even worse, as the country has been hit by years of war backed by the West, and harsh American sanctions make it difficult to get aid into the Arab country.
It is "much more difficult for [Syria] to cope with this tragedy because of those desperately lost years," Griffiths said.