Ankara/Damascus, Feb 7 (IANS) The death toll due to the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria has increased to more than 4,300 as rescuers are racing against time to find more survivors amid heavy rain and snow in the two neighbouring nations, according to media reports.
As of Tuesday morning, the toll in Turkey stood at 2,921, while in Syria it increased to 1,451, the BBC reported.
According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), there were at least 15,834 injured persons, while 7,840 people were pulled alive.
The AFAD also noted that at least 5,606 buildings destroyed, adding that a total of 14,720 people are currently providing assistance in the disaster zone, including military personnel, reports Xinhua news agency.
The devastating 7.8 earthquake 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) said.
At around 1.30 p.m, athird 7.5-magnitude tremor hit Kahramanmaras, which officials said was “not an aftershock”.
There were more than 60 aftershocks recorded throughout the day.
Meanwhile in Syria, of the overall toll, 711 deaths were recorded across government-controlled areas, mostly in the regions of Aleppo, Hama, Latakia, and Tartus, CNN quoted state news agency SANA as saying.
The “White Helmets” group, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, reported 740 deaths in opposition-controlled areas.
Much of northwestern Syria, which borders Turkey, is controlled by anti-government forces amid the ongoing bloody civil war that began in 2011.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the toll may rise dramatically as search and rescue operations are still continuing in both the countries, the BBC reported.
In the Turkish city of Osmaniye, near the epicentre, heavy rain hampered rescuers as they searched through the rubble looking for survivors.
The city was left without power in the aftermath of the devastation.
The earthquake has also caused significant damage to three airports across Turkey, creating additional challenges for aid deliveries.
A host of countries have sent rescue workers to help the stricken region and have offered support.
US President Joe Biden spoke earlier to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reaffirming “the readiness of the United States to provide any and all needed assistance”.
In a statement, the White House said Biden “noted that US teams are deploying quickly to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and co-ordinate other assistance that may be required by people affected by the earthquakes, including health services or basic relief items”.
India on Monday announced that two teams of NDRF comprising 100 personnel with specially trained dog squads and necessary equipment were ready to be flown to the affected regions.
Medical teams were also being readied with trained doctors and paramedics with essential medicines. Relief material would be dispatched in coordination with the Government of Republic of Turkey and Indian Embassy in Ankara and Consulate General office in Istanbul.
On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government would provide an “initial” $10 million in aid, to go to humanitarian groups, while his New Zealand counterpart Chris Hipkins also announced $1.5 million in aid.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol issued an order to send rescuers and emergency medical items to Turkey.
The European Union is sending search and rescue teams to Turkey, while rescuers from the Netherlands and Romania are already on their way.
The UK has said it will send 76 specialists, equipment and rescue dogs.
France, Germany, and Israel have also pledged to help.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered help to both Turkey and Syria, as has Iran.
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, says the USGS.
Seven quakes with magnitude 7.0 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years, but Monday’s is the most powerful.
Monday’s earthquake was powerful enough to be felt as far away as Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel.