Horrific scale of Turkey earthquake disaster in numbers as death toll nears 19,000

The death toll passed 19,000 on Thursday morning, as the WHO fears that numbers could reach 20,000

Eleanor Noyce
Thursday 09 February 2023 16:46 GMT
Turkey earthquake: British rescue crews join search for survivors

A series of earthquakes and aftershocks striking the border between southeast Turkey and northwest Syria on Monday have caused immense devastation.

Two major quakes measuring magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5 respectively shook the two countries on Monday, with hundreds of powerful aftershocks following.

As the rescue operation enters its fourth day, the true extent of the damage is still unravelling.

People wait as rescuers search for victims and survivors among the rubble of collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras, on February 9, 2023, three days after a 7,8-magnitude earthquake struck southeast Turkey (AFP via Getty Images)

The death toll is growing as search and rescue volunteers continue to uncover those trapped beneath the rubble, battling sub-zero temperatures and “worsening” conditions.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged humanitarian organisations to act quickly as many survivors are “out in the open.” Robert Holden, incident response manager, fears that this alone could trigger a “secondary disaster.”

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the Government will match £5 million in funds raised through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal.

As the tragic numbers continue to rise, we look at the scale of the tragedy losses and the need for those who survived.

How many have died in the earthquake?

Mesut Hancer holds the hand of his 15-year-old daughter Irmak, who died in the earthquake in Kahramanmaras (AFP via Getty Images)

On February 9, the death toll passed 19,000, with at least three times that number injured.

Deaths have been reported as far south as Hama, around 100km from the epicentre. The WHO estimates that the death toll could reach 20,000.

The quake is the largest to hit Turkey since 1999 and is the world’s deadliest natural disaster since the 9.1 magnitude Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. Striking off the coast of Indonesia, it killed around 228,000 people.

Dr Hans Kluge told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that just 22 per cent of people trapped in rubble survive 72 hours after an earthquake. After that period, it decreases to just 6 per cent.

How many have been affected?

Members of a Syrian family, whose house was destroyed during the war in Syria and later moved to Turkey, gather after their home was left in ruins (REUTERS)

The WHO estimates that some 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, are likely to have been directly affected in both countries.

Communities in northwestern Syria have been hit particularly hard amidst the ongoing conflict.

Even before the earthquakes, more than 15 million people in Syria were in need of humanitarian assistance. Some communities in the northwest have been displaced “up to 20 times” even before this tragedy.

How many earthquakes and aftershocks have there been?

Rescue workers continue to pull injured survivors out of the ruins (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Following the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes, the regions experienced 285 aftershocks.

Powerful tremors continued to hit as far away as northern Iraq into the early afternoon on Monday.

Italian seismologist Carlo Doglioni estimates that the earthquakes are likely to have moved the entire country by “five to six metres compared to Syria”, the professor told Italy 24.

How many buildings have been destroyed?

A man walks amid destroyed buildings in Antakya, southern Turkey (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Thousands of buildings, from homes to historic mosques and castles, have been destroyed. Authorities have reported that at least 6,000 buildings have collapsed.

The Grand Mosque in Malatya, Turkey is among the buildings damaged. A historic place of worship, the inscriptive plaque inside dates back to 1247.

The 2,000-year-old Gaziantep Castle was also decimated, first used as an observation point during the Hittite Empire.

Much of the port city of Iskenderun, in Turkey’s southern Hatay province, lies in ruins. Here, more than 1,200 buildings have been destroyed.

How many countries are helping in the search mission?

Rescue teams search for people in the rubble of destroyed buildings in Antaky (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

At least 24 countries have flocked to assist in recovery missions, with Turkey’s disaster management agency reporting that more than 24,400 emergency personnel are now on the ground.

The US is sending two 79-person teams, with Italy’s Civil Protection Agency confirming that a firefighting team was preparing to leave from Pisa. France, Spain, Russia, Israel and Germany are among the dozens of nations assisting.

Some 77 members of the UK International Search and Rescue Team have arrived in Turkey. The team of volunteers included firefighters, medics, engineers and vets.

UK International Search and Rescue team coordinator Mark Davey noted that it had taken a lot of organisation to reach Antakya in the Hatay province on account of the damage to basic infrastructure.

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