Turkey earthquake, WHO: “Deaths could reach 20 thousand”

The Organization warns: “The number of victims and injured will continue to rise, it is a race against time”. The aftershocks hindered their work by the rescuers.

The victims caused by the earthquake could reach twenty thousand which affected the southern regions of Turkey and the northern regions of Syria. This is the estimate of WHO, the World Health Organization, while rescuers continue to dig under the rubble in the hope of finding survivors. Their work is also hampered by aftershocks, 312 of which were declared by Turkish vice president Fuat Otkay, including one of magnitude 5.7 this morning in eastern Turkey.

“So far, it is estimated that more than 5,000 people have been killed and more than 18,700 injured” in the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, “but we all know that these numbers will continue to increase as the situation evolves. Of course, what these numbers do not tell us is the pain and loss that families are experiencing right now”. Families who “have lost a mother, a father, a daughter, a son under the rubble, or who do not know if their loved ones are dead or alive. Now it’s a race against time. With every minute, with every hour that passes, the chances of finding survivors alive decrease,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking at the meeting of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization in Geneva.

“The numbers do not tell us about the dangerous situation that many families now face, having lost everything, forced to sleep outside in the middle of winter”, continues the General Manager, listing the difficulties that are presenting themselves and that will have to be faced: “Continuous aftershocks, Harsh winter conditions, damage to roads, power supplies, communications and other infrastructure continue to hamper access and other search and rescue efforts.” And “we are particularly concerned about the areas for which we do not yet have information. Damage mapping is underway, to understand where we need to focus our attention”.

According to Adelheid Marschang, emergency expert of the UN health agency “it is a crisis that adds to the multiple crises in the affected region. Potentially 23 million people were exposed” to the earthquake “including about 5 million vulnerable people, including the elderly and 1.4 million children”. “Civil infrastructure and potentially health infrastructure was damaged throughout the affected region, mainly Turkey and North-West Syria, as well as massive destruction” overall caused by the quake “Road access in many areas is interrupted”. On the one hand, “Turkey’s strong response capacity is recognized”, added the expert, and on the other “it is also believed that the main unsatisfied needs could be in Syria in the immediate and medium term”, but “the movement of aid across the border could be interrupted due to the damage caused by the earthquake. This in itself would already be a huge crisis as northwestern Syria is home to over 4 million people who depend on humanitarian assistance through cross-border assistance and we have more than 2.7 million people who were displaced before the earthquake, many of which already live in the harshest conditions, in crowded makeshift lodgings or in tents”.

“The World Health Organization is sending three charter flights to earthquake-stricken Turkey and Syria loaded with medical supplies, including surgical trauma kits, from our logistics hub in Dubai,” Ghebreyesus added. “National officials in both Turkey and Syria are conducting search and rescue operations, while anticipating the growing need for trauma care for the wounded. The initial goal – explained the WHO DG – is to save lives and take care of the injuries. We are operating in a ‘no regrets’ fashion with rapidly established incident management teams at the national, regional and global levels. We are mobilizing emergency supplies and have activated WHO’s network of emergency medical teams to provide essential health care to the injured and the most vulnerable people”.

In the “critical days and hours to come” and “in the months and years to come”, assured the head of the UN health agency, “while both countries will recover and rebuild” what was destroyed by the earthquake, “we will work closely with all partners to support the authorities” of the two affected areas. “To our brothers and sisters in Turkey and Syria we say: we are all with you in this moment of unspeakable pain”. “A moment – concluded Dg Tedros – in which we must unite in solidarity, as a single humanity, to save human lives and alleviate the suffering of people who have already suffered so much”.