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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Death toll from Turkey and Syria quakes exceeds 19,000

The death toll from Monday morning’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria topped 19,000 on Thursday.

That’s more than the 17,000 people who died in 1999, when an equally powerful earthquake struck a densely populated region in northwestern Turkey.

Turkish authorities said the natural disaster had created “very serious difficulties” for the holding of elections scheduled for May 14, in which President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to face the toughest test in two decades in office.

Dissatisfaction with the slow delivery of aid and delays in rescue efforts could negatively affect the vote.

An official told Reuters it was too early to decide on an election, noting a three-month state of emergency had been declared in the country and around 15% of Turkey’s population lived in the affected area. .

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey and Syria were left homeless in the middle of winter. Many are in makeshift shelters in supermarket car parks, mosques, roadsides or ruins, needing food, water and warmth.

Around 6,500 buildings in Turkey have collapsed and countless others have been damaged in the quake zone, which is home to some 13 million people, authorities said.

Turkey’s confirmed death toll rose to 16,170 on Thursday, Erdogan said.

More than 3,000 people have died in Syria, according to government and emergency services in the opposition-controlled northwest. Relief efforts in Syria are complicated by a civil war that has destroyed infrastructure.

A UN convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Syrian victims crossed the border with Turkey three days after the quake and headed for opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria, where some 4 million people live, many of whom have been displaced by war and were already dependent on humanitarian aid.

The UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, told Geneva that the roads leading to the border crossing had been destroyed and this had caused delays in the delivery of aid.

At least 1,930 people have died in areas they control, according to the Syrian opposition.

El-Mostafa Benlamlih, senior UN aid official for Syria, said a total of 10.9 million people have been affected by the disaster there.

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