Ankara/Damascus: Amid harsh weather conditions, rescuers in Turkey and Syria were racing against time to find more survivors believed to be trapped under debris as the death toll from the devastating 7.8-magnitude quake crossed 5,000 on Tuesday.
In a televised address to the nation, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said the number of overall deaths in the country as a result of Monday’s quake currently stood at 3,419, while at least 20,534 people have been injured, reports CNN.
In a separate briefing, an official from the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) Orhan Tatar said that some 11,000 buildings were damaged and added that nearly 25,000 emergency responders are currently working at the affected areas.
Rescuers are using at least 10 ships and 54 aircraft to transport the wounded and help with search operations.
The AFAD also said that 2,660 personnel from 65 countries have been sent to help in the search and rescue operation.
In Syria, the death toll has increased to 1,602, while the number of the injured stood at 3,649, said officials.
According to the White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, hundreds of families still remain trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
More than 790 victims have been confirmed dead in rebel-held parts of northwest Syria, and over 2,200 injured, CNN quoted the White Helmets as saying on Twitter.
However, “the numbers are expected to rise significantly because hundreds of families are still under the rubble”, the group said.
More than 210 buildings were destroyed by the quake in northwest Syria.
International aid is being sent to the affected regions from the UN, EU, NATO and the governments of the US, UK, China, Russia, India, Japan, Iraq, Iran, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Pakistan, among others.
Meanwhile, disaster management officials in Turkey and Syria have said that heavy rain and snow are hampering the search and rescue efforts, reports the BBC.
The earthquake has also caused significant damage to three airports across Turkey, also creating challenges for aid deliveries.
The devastating 7.8 tremor struck Turkey’s southern province of Kahramanmaras at 4.17 a.m. on Monday morning, which was followed by a 6.4-magnitude temblor a few minutes later in Gaziantep province.
The epicentre of the 7.8-magnitude quake was 23 km east of Nurdagi in Gaziantep, at a depth of 24.1 km, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
At around 1.30 p.m, a third 7.5-magnitude tremor hit Kahramanmaras, which officials said was “not an aftershock”.
There were more than 60 aftershocks recorded throughout the day.
Monday’s quake is believed to be the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when a tremor of the same magnitude killed 30,000 people in Erzincan province, according to the USGS.
Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world, it said.
Seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years, but Monday’s was the most powerful.
The earthquake was powerful enough to be felt as far away as Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel.
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