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4,300 now listed as dead from Turkey and Syrian earthquakes

Collapsed building in Kahramanmaras, Turkey
PHOTO: Collapsed building in Kahramanmaras

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on Monday, killing more than 4,000 people and leaving thousands of buildings in ruins. The latest death toll update has passed 4,300 with numbers expected to rise in coming days.

The disaster has prompted numerous nations to offer aid as the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks hampered emergency efforts. The winter weather, including a blizzard, made it difficult for rescue teams to access the affected areas and transport aid. The quake, which was felt as far away as Greenland, made three major airports in the region inoperable, adding to the difficulties in delivering aid.

Turkey declared seven days of mourning and the US, European Union and Russia all immediately offered their condolences and help.

The earthquake hit at 4:17 am local time and was felt across both countries.

AFP reports that the rescue is being hampered by a winter blizzard that covered major roads in ice and snow. Officials say the quake made three major airports in the area inoperable, further complicating deliveries of vital aid.

More than 12,000 people are now officially listed as injured in Turkey, according to the disaster management agency. Syrian officials say at least 3,411 people were injured.

In Syria, the earthquake was reported to be the biggest on record. Rescuers are working to save survivors from the rubble, but the freezing temperatures and damaged infrastructure are making the rescue efforts challenging. The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, expressed fears of heavy damage to historical sites in Aleppo and Diyarbakir in Turkey. The tragedy has left many residents afraid and seeking shelter in the streets.

Regionally, the leaders of Australia and New Zealand on Monday have announced a combined total of US$11.5 million in aid for victims of the devastating earthquake in both Turkey and Syria. And the first of two Indian disaster relief teams left for Turkey last night, according to the Indian Air Force.

So far, no Thais have been reported injured or killed in the huge earthquakes according to the Foreign Ministry. For its part, Thailand is deploying a 20 member Urban Search and Rescue team to the disaster zone. They departed late yesterday.

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