Death toll from Turkey-Syria quakes tops 6,700 — RT World News

Rescue operations are now a ‘race against time’, says World Health Organization

The number of confirmed deaths from the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria continues to rise as rescuers dig through the rubble. Tuesday evening, Ankara and Damascus recorded a total of 6,706 dead and 36,259 injured.

“At the moment we have 5,894 dead and 34,810 injured,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters on Tuesday evening.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decreed a seven-day mourning period for the victims of the disaster, which he called the worst since the Erzincan earthquake in 1939. Erdogan also declared a state of emergency in the ten most affected regions, which will last at least three months.

The Syrian government has reported at least 812 dead and 1,449 injured. Unconfirmed reports from territories held by anti-government activists point to even more casualties.

Rescue teams were working around the clock to extricate any survivors from the rubble. Local and state authorities are also struggling to provide shelter from the cold to residents whose homes have been destroyed.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said the rescue operations were “now a race against time” and that the chances of finding more survivors decrease by the hour. WHO was sending teams and supplies to the affected area.

Many countries have offered to help with the rescue efforts. Russia has sent more than 100 emergency response specialists, who will work around the clock in the affected areas. Syria, however, had a tougher time than Turkey, due to US and EU sanctions.

The Syrian government has appealed for help from the UN and other international organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross. Meanwhile, the Lebanon-based Middle East Council of Churches has called for the immediate lifting of sanctions, lest they become “a crime against humanity”.

A 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit the Pazarcik district in Turkey’s Kahramanmaras province shortly after 4 a.m. local time on Monday. Aftershocks in Gaziantep province reached magnitudes of 6.4 and 6.5 respectively.

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