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Turkey-Syria earthquake: first aid convoy reaches Syria as combined death toll passes 17,000

Turkey-Syria earthquake: first aid convoy reaches Syria as combined death toll passes 17,000

The death toll in Turkey from Monday’s earthquakes has risen to 14,014, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said, with more than 63,000 people injured.

Visiting the quake-hit province of Gaziantep, Erdoğan said more than 6,400 buildings had been destroyed and that Turkey aimed to build new three and four-storey buildings in the region within one year, Reuters reports.

A total of at least 3,162 are confirmed dead in Syria, with government-held areas reporting 1,262 people dead and 1,900 killed in the rebel-controlled northwest, meaning the combined tally in both countries now stands at 17, 176.

Experts have said that it is likely to continue to rise.

At least 28,044 people have been evacuated from Kahramanmaras, one of the southern Turkish provinces hardest hit by Monday’s earthquake, including 23,437 by air and 4,607 by road and rail, Turkey’s disaster management agency has said.

It added that accomodation was being arranged for those affected in cooperation with the relevant provincial authorities.

News that the first UN aid convoy has crossed the border from Turkey into north-west Syria is promising, but far more will be needed in a region that was in dire humanitarian need before Monday’s earthquake struck.

While up to two more crossings may open if security stays good, the UN has described the Bab al-Hawa border crossing as a lifeline for accessing the rebel-held area of Syria, where an estimated 4 million people, many fleeing the country’s 11-year civil war, were already relying on aid to survive.

“We need lifesaving aid,” the UN’s special envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, said. “It’s desperately needed by civilians wherever they are, irrespective of borders and boundaries. We need it urgently through the fastest, most direct and most effective routes. They need more of absolutely everything.”

Rescue workers have said the UN’s efforts are insufficient and what was most in need was heavy equipment for search-and-rescue operations where many people are believed to be still buried under debris.

“The UN are not delivering the aid that we are in most need of to help us save lives, with time running out,” Raed al Saleh, who leads the main volunteer rescue group known as the White Helmets, told Reuters.

NGOs and rescue workers have said the rescue operation is relying on simple tools like pickaxes and shovels and old cranes in urban areas where whole neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble.

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