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Turkey, Syria earthquake: death toll passes 5,000 as Erdogan announces 3-month emergency

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Kabul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a three-month state of emergency across the 10 provinces worst affected by Monday’s devastating earthquakes.

In a speech, Reuters reports that Erdoğan said that 70 countries had offered help in search and rescue operations and that Turkey planned to open up hotels in the tourism hub of Antalya, to the west, to temporarily house people affected by the quakes.

He said the death toll in Turkey had risen to 3,549 people, raising the combined death toll in Turkey and Syria to 5,151.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said it had 11,342 reports of collapsed buildings, of which 5,775 had been confirmed. Turkey’s ministry of transport and infrastructure said that overnight 3,400 people took shelter in trains being used as emergency accommodation.

While thousands of buildings have collapsed in Turkey following Monday’s earthquakes, the government is worried that structures still standing might also have been weakened, and could pose a threat to civilians.

Aftershocks, freezing temperatures and damaged roads are hampering efforts to reach and rescue those affected by Monday’s earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria, which has killed more than 5,000 people and destroyed thousands of buildings.

As the scale of the devastation from the 7.8 magnitude tremor continued to unfold, the World Health Organization warned the number of casualties could exceed 20,000. Adelheid Marschang, a WHO senior emergency officer, has said about 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, are likely to be affected by the quake.

A fire at the port of İskenderun on the Mediterranean Sea continues for the second day. Television images showed thick black smoke rising from burning containers which had toppled when the quake struck on Monday.

In Syria, hospitals and clinics continue to be flooded with injured people, even as the focus of the international community remains on Turkey.

Carsten Hansen, director for the Middle East at the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement that the disaster “will worsen the suffering of Syrians already struggling with a severe humanitarian crisis.” 

Meanwhile, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) called for the immediate lifting of sanctions imposed on Syria, saying it was hampering the efforts to provide the Syrian people with basic needs to respond to the devastating earthquake.

“We urge the immediate lifting of sanctions on Syria and allowing access to all materials, so sanctions may not turn into a crime against humanity,” it said in a statement on Monday.

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