Photos from across southern Turkey and northern Syria show scenes of devastation and suffering as hopes fade of finding survivors more than four days after Monday’s massive earthquake struck the region.
More than 21,000 people have died in both countries and rescue workers are now racing against time to pull survivors from the rubble of collapsed buildings in freezing winter conditions.
At least 78,124 people were injured across Turkey and Syria, according to authorities.
A UN aid convoy crossed from Turkey into northwestern Syria on Thursday for the first time since the earthquake hit. The six trucks carrying shelter items and Non-Food Items (NFI) drove through the Bab Al Hawa border crossing, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he is open to the idea of delivering aid via additional border crossings, other than the Bab al-Hawa, which is the only humanitarian aid corridor approved by the UN between Turkey and rebel-held areas of northern Syria.
In Syria, the earthquake’s devastation heaps misery on top of an existing humanitarian crisis resulting from a more than decade-long civil war. Millions living in northwest Syria, much of which is controlled by anti-government rebels, were already suffering from the effects of extreme poverty and a cholera outbreak when the quake hit.
Now many are fending for themselves, as many Western nations have refused to send aid directly to the Syrian regime, which is under US and EU sanctions.
The Syria Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, has warned that the hope of finding survivors is fading inside the country.
Moussa Zidanea volunteer with the group told CNN on Thursday that in the aftermath of the quakes, “tens of thousands of families are currently homeless all over northwest Syria.”
The cold weather is adding to the catastrophe, he said, as rescue teams struggle to extract people from under the rubble.
In the rebel-held Idlib governorate, a man told AFPTV on Thursday he had been digging through rubble with his hands as he searched for 30 relatives in the village of Besnaya.
Malik Ibrahim, 40, said he had retrieved 10 bodies, after searching for two days without sleep.
“It’s ineffable, words fail me, it’s tragic,” he said. “The whole family is gone, and all our memories are buried with them.”