More than 11,000 people were confirmed dead Wednesday after a devastating earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has admitted to issues with his country’s response.
Erdogan said more than 8,500 of those deaths occurred in Turkey and contended the response efforts had improved after initial problems.
The president visited areas badly damaged in Monday morning’s 7.8 magnitude quake, including Kahramanmaras, after thousands of buildings collapsed throughout southeast Turkey and northern Syria.
Critics of Erdogan’s response included opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who claimed the president failed to prepare Turkey. Others argued rescuers were too slow to arrive in areas where people were stuck beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings.
“We waited till late in the evening, but nobody came,” Arzu Dedeoglu, whose two nieces were trapped by debris in Iskenderun, told Reuters. “We brought in a caterpillar [digger] with our own means, but they did not want us to use it — they stopped us.”
The official death toll has steadily risen since the earthquake, which was followed several hours later by a 7.5 magnitude quake about 60 miles away. Syrian officials say 1,200 people have died in areas controlled by the government, while first responders said another 1,400 died in a region controlled by rebels.
It’s the world’s deadliest earthquake since 2011, when nearly 20,000 people died in Japan. Monday’s quake left tens of thousands of people injured as well.
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Cold temperatures, snow and rain complicated the search efforts in Turkey and presented challenges for survivors.
“We don’t have a tent, we don’t have a heating stove, we don’t have anything,” said Aysan Kurt, 27. “Our children are in bad shape. We are all getting wet under the rain and our kids are out in the cold. We did not die from hunger or the earthquake, but we will die freezing from the cold.”
Families impacted by the earthquake will receive 10,000 Turkish lira ($532) from the government, Erdogan said.
More than a dozen countries sent search-and-rescue teams to the disaster areas, while the World Health Organization said it was providing three charter planes filled with supplies.
“It’s now a race against time. Every minute, every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive diminishes,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday.
“Continued aftershocks, severe winter conditions, damage to roads, power supplies, communications and other infrastructure continue to hamper access and other search and rescue efforts.”
With News Wire Services