The death toll from a massive earthquake and its aftershocks in Turkey and Syria surpassed 11,600, according to estimates from officials on Wednesday, tripling the figure reported on Monday when the disaster struck.
Grim figures, including tens of thousands injured, keep rising as rescue crews continue to search through the rubble of collapsed buildings. The World Health Organization warned the number dead could exceed 20,000, per The Guardian.
“The first 72 hours are considered to be critical,” Steven Godby, a natural hazards expert at Nottingham Trent University in England, told the Associated Press. “The survival ratio on average within 24 hours is 74%, after 72 hours it is 22% and by the fifth day it is 6%.”
The earthquake, an estimated magnitude 7.8 event that hit before dawn Monday, is being described as the world’s deadliest in more than a decade. The region is situated on major fault lines and experiences frequent earthquakes.
Animated map of seismicity near Turkey quakes starting ~3am local time plotting Feb 6 M7.8 mainshock (pink), early aftershocks (orange), M7.5 aftershock to the north (tan), and subsequent aftershocks in the north (tan). Time vs. magnitude progression shown on bottom graph. pic.twitter.com/TTa7qdZWzO
— USGS Earthquakes (@USGS_Quakes) February 7, 2023
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who declared seven days of national mourning, said his country was shaken by its “biggest disaster” since the 1939 Erzincan earthquake, which killed more than 30,000 people.
Even those who survived remain in danger from freezing temperatures.
“There were children huddled around fires to try and stay warm, and a lot of people sleeping in their cars — entire families,” said Okke Bouwman, a rescue worker for Save the Children, according to The New York Times.
More than 11,000 people have now been confirmed dead in Turkey and Syria following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the region on Monday, the deadliest earthquake the world has seen in over a decade, as rescue efforts continue following the devastating disaster. pic.twitter.com/YbUDfPUx3x
— Forbes (@Forbes) February 8, 2023
The dire situation is complicated by the years-long civil war in Syria. Millions of refugees displaced by the conflict were taking refuge on both sides of Turkish-Syrian border when the quake hit.
However, there is hope as assistance is pouring in from around the world.
President Joe Biden said his administration authorized an “immediate” response. “The United Nations is fully committed to supporting the response. Our teams are on the ground assessing the needs and providing assistance,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.