Desperate searches for survivors from multiple earthquakes that rocked Turkey and Syria over the past 48-hours continued Tuesday with the discovery of more bodies taking the death toll past 5,000.
There are fears that toll will rise inexorably, with some relief agency officials estimating up to 20,000 may have died, AFP reports.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared seven days of national mourning on Monday night as the extent of the damage and death toll became clearer.
The initial earthquake was so large it was felt as far away as Greenland, and the impact is big enough to have sparked a global response.
The head of the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) said he was especially concerned about areas of Turkey and Syria from which no information had emerged following a major earthquake that killed thousands.
“We’re especially concerned about areas where we do not yet have information,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the W.H.O.’s executive board meeting in Geneva. “Damage mapping is one way to understand where we need to focus our attention.”
Countries around the world dispatched teams to assist in the rescue efforts, and Turkey’s disaster management agency said more than 24,400 emergency personnel were now on the ground, AP reports.
But with such a wide swath of territory hit by Monday’s earthquake and nearly 6,000 buildings confirmed to have collapsed in Turkey alone, their efforts were spread thin.
At least 3,381 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with more than 20,000 injured, according to the latest figures from Turkish authorities on Tuesday.
The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 769 people, with some 1,450 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In the country’s rebel-held northwest, groups that operate there said at least 450 people died, with many hundreds injured.
Authorities fear the death toll will keep climbing as the rescuers look for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete spread across the region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.