‘Terrifying’ prediction over earthquake death toll made by UN aid chief


The death toll from the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria is likely to more than double, a UN aid chief has told Sky News.

More than 25,000 people are known to have died after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck on Monday, with multiple aftershocks.

Speaking to Sky’s Kay Burley in the quake-hit city of Adana in Turkey, Martin Griffiths said he expected tens of thousands more deaths to be confirmed.

Quake is region’s ‘worst event in 100 years’; death toll passes 25,000 | Turkey-Syria latest

The scene in Kahramanmarsh., Turkey following the Earthquake
The scene of destruction in Kahramanmaras, central Turkey, after the quake

Mr Griffiths, the UN’s emergency relief co-ordinator, said: “I think it is difficult to estimate precisely as we need to get under the rubble but I’m sure it will double or more.

“That’s terrifying. This is nature striking back in a really harsh way.”

He added: “It’s deeply shocking… the idea that these mountains of rubble still hold people, some of them still alive.

“We haven’t really begun to count the number of dead.”

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Facing the earthquake aftermath alone

With hopes fading for those trapped under wreckage in Turkey and Syria, Mr Griffiths said rescue efforts were now in their final stages.

“They say 72 hours is the golden period (for rescues),” he said.

“But just now they have pulled out someone alive an hour two ago. It must be incredibly difficult to decide when to stop this rescue phase and move into the next phase which is also going to have its problems.”

While Mr Griffiths praised the international aid response to Turkey as “phenomenal and heartening”, there has been a stark divide in the offers to Syria.

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‘They simply can’t cope’ with number of dead

The country has been hit by years of civil war and condemnation of its ruling regime’s treatment of its people, creating difficulties in getting aid into the country.

Aid agencies are likely to face difficulties accessing northern Syria, much of which is controlled by rebel groups who have been battling the regime.

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Mr Griffiths said it is “much more difficult for [Syria] to cope with this tragedy because of those desperate lost years”.

He added: “The awful truth about Syria from a humanitarian perspective is that the needs of the people of Syria grow each year and despite generous funding, we fail to meet those needs. As a result, the people who live in absolute poverty in Syria grows – now 90% of the population.”

The leader of the White Helmets emergency volunteer group has criticised the UN’s response in Syria, saying rebel-held areas had not received any aid from the organisation since the earthquake.

The UN is not authorised to deliver aid into Syria through other border crossings under a UN Security Council resolution.

However the council is set to discuss whether to allow it to provide aid to rebel-held areas of Syria through more than one Turkish border crossing with a decision due next week.

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