Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared seven days of national mourning, and Syria has appealed to the United Nations for help following devastating earthquakes that killed more than 4,800 people and toppled buildings across southeast Turkey and northern Syria.
Authorities fear the death toll from Monday’s predawn magnitude 7.8 temblor, followed by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake and several aftershocks will continue to climb as rescuers looked for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete spread across a region already suffering under Syria’s 12-year civil war and a refugee crisis.
Rescuers searched through the frigid night into Tuesday morning, hoping to dig more survivors out of the rubble as those trapped cried out for help from beneath mountains of debris.
Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), gave the number of dead in the county at 3,381 on Tuesday morning, while 20,426 others were injured. Tatar said more than 5,700 buildings had also been destroyed.
In Syria, at least 1,444 people were killed and about 3,500 others were injured, according to the Ministry of Health and the White Helmets rescue organization.
Freezing winter weather conditions and snowfall in the devastated region have added to the plight of many thousands of people left injured and homeless by the earthquake. Downed buildings and destroyed roads have hampered efforts to find survivors and get crucial aid into affected areas.
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said millions of people need help.
“And their need is even more acute because it is winter and they are facing cold temperatures, snow and rain.”
Ten cities in southern Turkey have been declared disaster areas, according to Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Istanbul. Freezing temperatures and snow have hampered rescue efforts, and more bad weather is expected to hit the region. Electricity supplies and natural gas have been cut off in many areas and the government is working to restore both services.
“A full picture of the devastation is only starting to emerge – devastation that will likely become more evident as the sun rises” on Tuesday, Ghoneim said.