Rescuers in Turkey have pulled out two women alive who were trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings for 122 hours after the region’s deadliest earthquake in two decades.
A day after Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the response of rescue and relief forces and said that they should have reacted faster to the big earthquake, the number of victims in southern Turkey and northwestern Syria neared 25,000.
The number of deaths in Turkey alone rose to 20,923 on Saturday while more than 3,500 were killed in Syria.
United Nations says up to 5.3 million people in Syria may be homeless after the earthquakes, while nearly 900,000 people are in urgent need of hot food in Turkey and Syria.
“As many as 5.3 million people in Syria may have been left homeless by the earthquake,” Sivanka Dhanapala, the Syria representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday, adding “that is a huge number and comes to a population already suffering mass displacement.”
Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters that with the efforts of 31,000 rescuers throughout the affected area, 67 people were rescued from the rubble in the last 24 hours.
He added that about 80,000 people are being treated in hospitals, while 1.05 million people have been made homeless by the earthquake and have been accommodated in temporary shelters.
“Our main goal is to ensure that they return to a normal life by delivering permanent housing to them within one year, and that they heal their pain as soon as possible,” Oktay said.
Syrian state media also announced that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the affected areas and a hospital in Aleppo with his wife Asma.
The Syrian government also approved sending humanitarian aid to earthquake-hit areas, a move that could speed up aid to millions of desperate people.
Earlier, the World Food Program said that relief efforts have been complicated in the war-torn northwest of Syria.
The United Nations World Food Program has announced that despite the difficulties in getting food in Syria, which has been devastated by the conflict, it has so far delivered food to 43 thousand of people in the country.
Thanks to stockpiles inside the country, the agency said ready-to-eat rations are available for 100,000 people, and other rations that require cooking facilities for 1.4 million people for a month.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said on Friday that it was rapidly depleting the stockpile it had in Syria ahead of the devastating earthquake and needed quick resupply to support the millions affected.
The Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey is currently the only way UN aid can reach civilians in war-torn Syria. This is while Syria is under severe international sanctions.
The United Nations has called for politics to be stripped out of the disaster response to facilitate aid delivery.
The Turkey-Syria border is one of the world’s most active earthquake zones. Monday’s quake was the largest Turkey has seen since 1939, when 33,000 people died in eastern Erzincan province. In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake killed more than 17,000.