The death toll in Turkey surged by more than 3,000 in a matter of hours and is now at 12,391, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency on Thursday.
The total number of deaths in Syria is at least 2,992, including 1,730 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the “White Helmets” civil defense group, as well as an additional 1,262 deaths in government-controlled parts of Syria, according to Syrian state media.
The World Health Organization has said it is scaling up its response in Syria and Turkey because diseases already present — particularly in Syria — will be amplified, including cholera and respiratory illnesses.
“There is a secondary health crisis emerging in the aftermath as underlying health risks will likely be exacerbated. I’m speaking about — and especially in the case of Syria — diarrheal diseases including cholera, respiratory illnesses, leishmaniasis, physical and mental trauma and disability, secondary wound infection etc. and the worsening of chronic conditions, noncommunicable diseases, due to the disruptions of continuity of care and the capacity to treat ongoing regular health issues and as I’ve seen myself, these capacities have been gravely affected due to the longstanding pre-existing complex crisis,” WHO Senior Emergency Officer Dr. Adelheid Marschang said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Robert Holden, WHO incident manager for the earthquake response, stated the emphasis in Turkey and Syria is to ensure “those that survived the initial disaster continue to survive going forward.”
“We have got a … huge-scale disaster unfolding on us with large geographical spread. We’ve got a lot of people who have survived now out in the open and in worsening and horrific conditions. We’ve got major disruption to basic water supplies; we’ve got major disruption to fuel, electricity supplies, communication supplies, the basics of life. We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster if we don’t move with the same pace and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue side,” he continued.
“We’ve got to ensure that people have the basic elements to survive this next period,” he added.