Difficult conditions and freezing temperatures hampered rescue efforts overnight in Turkey and Syria, one day after a powerful earthquake struck the region, killing at least 4,300 people.
As the scale of the devastation from the 7.8 magnitude tremor continued to unfold, the World Health Organization warned the number of casualties could exceed 20,000.
International rescue missions rushed to both countries and worked through the night to find survivors on Tuesday.
The early-morning quake and aftershocks, including a 7.5 magnitude tremor, wiped out entire apartment blocks in Turkey and heaped more destruction on Syrian communities already devastated by over a decade of war.
On Tuesday, under a pile of rubble in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, a woman’s voice could be heard calling for help. Weeping in the rain, a local resident who gave his name as Deniz wrung his hands in despair.
“They’re making noises but nobody is coming,” he said. “We’re devastated, we’re devastated. My God … They’re calling out. They’re saying, ‘Save us,’ but we can’t save them. How are we going to save them? There has been nobody since the morning.”
In the city of Kahramanmaras in southeastern Turkey, witnesses struggled to comprehend the extent of the disaster.
“We thought it was the apocalypse,” said Melisa Salman, a 23-year-old reporter. “That was the first time we have ever experienced anything like that.”
An unknown number of people remain trapped under the rubble and efforts to find survivors have been frustrated by frigid conditions. Poor internet connections and damaged roads between some of the worst-hit cities in Turkey’s south, homes to millions of people, also hindered rescue teams.
In Syria, the effects of the quake were compounded by the destruction of more than 11 years of civil war.
Difficult conditions frustrate rescue efforts after Turkey and Syria earthquakes as toll reaches 4,300