Feb 11 (Reuters) – UN aid chief Martin Griffiths described on Saturday the devastating earthquake that hit southern Turkey and northwestern Syria as the “worst event in 100 years in this region”.
Speaking during a news briefing in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, Griffiths also lauded Turkey’s response to the disaster as “extraordinary”.
He also told Reuters he hoped in Syria aid would go to both government and opposition-held areas, but that things with this regard were “not clear yet”.
Rescuers in Turkey pulled more people from the rubble early on Saturday, five days after the country’s most devastating earthquake since 1939, but hopes were fading in Turkey and Syria that many more survivors would be found.
In Kahramanmaras, close to the quake’s epicentre in southeastern Turkey, there were fewer visible rescue operations amid the smashed concrete mounds of fallen houses and apartment blocks, while ever more trucks rumbled through the streets shipping out debris.
The growing death toll, exceeding 24,150 across southern Turkey and northwest Syria, raised questions over Turkey’s earthquake planning and response time, and President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that authorities should have reacted faster.
In the rebel enclave of northwest Syria that suffered the country’s worst damage from the earthquake but where relief efforts are complicated by the more than decade-old civil war, very little aid had entered even after the Damascus government said on Friday it would allow convoys to cross frontlines.
In Turkey, 67 people had been clawed from the rubble in the previous 24 hours, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters overnight, in efforts that drew in 31,000 rescuers across the affected region.
About 80,000 people were being treated in hospital, while 1.05 million left homeless by the quakes were in temporary shelters, he added.