The death toll from the earthquakes, which struck early on Monday morning, topped 20,000 on Thursday across Türkiye and Syria.
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A Turkish official said the disaster posed “very serious difficulties” for the holding of an election scheduled for May 14 in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been expected to face the toughest challenge in his two decades in power.
With anger simmering over the slow delivery of aid and delays in getting the rescue effort underway, it is bound to play into the vote should it still go ahead.
Meanwhile the first United Nations convoy carrying aid to stricken Syrians crossed over the border from Türkiye, three days since quake struck.
In Syria’s Idlib province, Munira Mohammad, a mother-of-four who had fled Aleppo after the quake, said: “It is all children here, and we need heating and supplies, last night we couldn’t sleep because it was so cold. It is very bad.”
Hundreds of thousands of people across both countries have been left homeless in the middle of winter. Many have camped out in makeshift shelters in supermarket car parks, mosques, roadsides or amid the ruins, often desperate for food, water and heat.
At a gas station near the Turkish town of Kemalpasa, people picked through cardboard boxes of donated clothes. In the port city of Iskenderun, Reuters journalists saw people huddled round campfires on roadsides and in wrecked garages and warehouses.
Authorities say some 6,500 buildings in Türkiye collapsed and countless more were damaged in the quake zone where some 13 million people live.
The confirmed death toll in Türkiye rose to 16,170 on Thursday, Erdogan said. In Syria, already devastated by nearly 12 years of civil war, more than 3,000 people have died, according to the government and a rescue service in the opposition-held northwest.
In Türkiye’s Maras, people camped inside a bank, taping a sheet in the window for privacy. Others had set up on the grass median of a main road, heating instant soup on fires and wrapping themselves in blankets.
In Antakya, few petrol stations had fuel and kilometers-long queues stretched from those that did.
Turkish officials say some 13.5 million people were affected in an area spanning roughly 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east. In Syria, people were killed as far south as Hama, 250 km from the epicenter. ■