Rescuers struggled to dig people out of the rubble of collapsed buildings on Tuesday in a “race against time” as the death toll from an earthquake across a wide area of Turkey and Syria passed 5,000.
The magnitude 7.8 quake – the deadliest in Turkey since 1999 – hit early on Monday and was followed by a second hours later.
Thousands of buildings were toppled, hospitals and schools wrecked and tens of thousands of people were injured or left homeless in several Turkish and Syrian cities.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan declared as a disaster zone in 10 provinces, imposing a state of emergency in the region for three months.
A U.N. official said thousands of children may be among the dead.
Harsh winter weather hampered search efforts and the delivery of aid and made the plight of the homeless even more miserable. Some areas were without fuel and electricity.
Aid officials voiced particular concern about the situation in Syria, already afflicted by a humanitarian crisis after nearly 12 years of civil war.
In Turkey, the death toll had climbed to 3,419 people by Tuesday morning, Vice President Fuat Oktay said. In Syria, the death toll stood at just over 1,600, according to the government and a rescue service in the insurgent-held northwest.
Turkish authorities say some 13.5 million people were affected in an area spanning roughly 450 km from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east, and 300 km from Malatya in the north to Hatay in the south. Syrian authorities have reported deaths as far south as Hama, some 100 km from the epicentre.
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