Death toll from Turkey and Syria earthquakes surpasses 50,000

Tremors are still being felt in the region, which has also been facing freezing conditions

Red balloons are attached to parts of a destroyed apartment building in Antakya, Turkey, following the deadly earthquake. Reuters
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The death toll from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that struck on February 6 surpassed 50,000 on Friday after Turkey declared more than 44,000 people had died.

The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said the death toll in Turkey due to the earthquakes had risen to 44,218 on Friday night.

With Syria's latest announced death toll of 5,914, the combined death toll in the two countries rose above 50,000.

UN officials had previously warned that the number of people killed in the disaster could exceed 50,000.

Tremors are still being felt in the region, which has also been facing freezing conditions, with temperatures dropping below 0°C overnight, affecting people who lost their homes.

More recently, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake tore through Turkey's Hatay province, centred in the town of Defne, on Monday.

Meanwhile, a Turkish government official said work had begun to rebuild homes following the devastating earthquakes.

Another earthquake hits Turkey and Syria — in pictures

More than 160,000 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in the earthquakes.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to rebuild homes within a year, although experts have said the authorities should put safety before speed.

Some buildings that were meant to withstand tremors crumbled in the latest earthquakes.

“For several projects, tenders and contracts have been done. The process is moving very fast,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official added there would be no compromise on safety.

Authorities say tents have been sent out to house the many homeless, but people have reported trouble in gaining access to them.

UAE continues to send relief aid to earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey — in pictures

“I have eight children. We are living in a tent. There is water on top [of the tent] and the ground is damp. We are asking for more tents and they don't give them to us,” said Melek, 67, who was queuing to collect aid outside a high school in the town of Hassa.

The school was being used as an aid distribution centre by a group of volunteers called Interrail Turkey.

One volunteer, Sumeyye Karabocek, said the shortage of tents remained the biggest problem.

Mr Erdogan's government has endured a wave of criticism over both its response to the devastation and what many Turks say were years of non-enforcement of construction quality control.

The Turkish government's initial plan now is to build 200,000 apartments and 70,000 village houses at a cost of at least $15 billion, he said.

US bank JP Morgan had estimated rebuilding houses and infrastructure will cost $25 billion.

The UN Development Programme said it estimated that the earthquakes have left 1.5 million people homeless, with 500,000 new homes needed.

Lands cracked by earthquake in Turkey — in pictures

It said it had requested $113.5 million from the $1 billion in funds appealed for by the UN last week, with funds to be used to clear away mountains of rubble.

The UNDP estimates that the disaster had produced between 116 million and 210 million tonnes of rubble, compared with 13 million tonnes of rubble after the earthquake in north-west Turkey in 1999.

Turkey also issued new regulations under which companies and charities can build homes and workplaces to donate to the urbanisation ministry for people in need.

Updated: February 24, 2023, 11:17 PM