The death toll from the earthquake that struck Turkey and neighboring Syria has surpassed 40,000, leaving many survivors homeless in near-freezing winter temperatures.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged shortcomings in the initial response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck early on February 6, but claims the situation is now under control.
Mr Edrogan in a televised speech in Ankara said the country was facing one of the greatest natural disasters not only in the country but also in the history of humanity.
Nine survivors were rescued from the rubble in Turkey on Tuesday, more than a week after the massive earthquake struck, as the aid effort shifted to helping people now struggling without shelter or enough food in the bitter cold.
Those rescued included two brothers, aged 17 and 21, pulled from an apartment block in Kahramanmaras province, and a Syrian man and young woman in a leopard-print headscarf in Antakya rescued after over 200 hours in the rubble.
There could be further people alive still to find, said one rescuer.
But U.N. authorities have said the rescue phase is coming to a close, with the focus turning to shelter, food and schooling.
“The needs are huge, increasing by the hour,” said Hans Henri P. Kluge, the World Health Organization’s director for Europe. “Some 26 million people across both countries need humanitarian assistance.”
“There are also growing concerns over emerging health issues linked to the cold weather, hygiene and sanitation, and the spread of infectious diseases – with vulnerable people especially at risk.”
Families in Turkey and Syria say they and their children were dealing with the psychological aftermath of the quake.
Also Read: Turkey Earthquake: Erdogan DeclaresThree-Month State of Emergency in 10 Provinces
A first convoy of U.N. aid entered rebel-held northwest Syria from Turkey via the newly-opened Bab al-Salam crossing.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to allow UN aid into Syria through two new border crossings, a significant shift for Damascus, which has long opposed cross-border aid deliveries to the rebel enclave.
The earthquake affected nearly 9 million people in Syria, according to the UN, which launched a $400 million funding appeal.
Meanwhile Senegal has sent a 30-member search and rescue team to Turkey to support disaster relief efforts after a devastating quake, which has been described as the “disaster of the century”.
The men belonging to the Senegalese Fire Brigade departed from Dakar Blaise Diagne proceeding to International Airport.
The team will land in Adana before the disaster area.