Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: more than 15,000 people have died

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 Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: more than 15,000 people have already died< /p>

Rescuers continue to retrieve survivors from the freezing rubble. And Turkey's president dismisses growing criticism of the authorities over Monday's massive earthquakes. During his first visit to the hardest-hit region, Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted that there were initial problems with Turkey's response, but stressed that everything is working well now.

“Of course, there are shortcomings. The circumstances are obvious. It is impossible to be prepared for such a catastrophe,” Erdogan said during a visit to Hatay, the southern province with the highest death toll in the country.

Many Turks complained about the lack of equipment and help to be able to save their loved ones. But Erdogan denounced the growing criticism of the rescue effort. “Now is the time for unity, solidarity. I can't stand people campaigning negatively for political interests,” said the president, who faces elections in May.

12,391 deaths have been officially confirmed in Turkey. The death toll has risen to 2,992, according to Syrian authorities, bringing the total to 15,383. Experts predict that the death toll in both countries will rise further, possibly more than doubling.

Erdogan, fearful of the consequences of any notion that his government has failed to respond to Turkey's deadliest earthquake since 1939, declared a state of emergency in the respective areas. He also pledged to build new housing within a year for those left homeless in the 10 affected provinces, where an estimated 64,000 buildings were destroyed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) previously said that Earthquakes can affect up to 23 million people. In this regard, WHO is sending a high-level delegation to coordinate the response to both countries, as well as three planes with medical supplies.

The authorities said that about 13.5 million people were affected in Turkey in total. However, aid workers are particularly concerned about the situation in Syria, already devastated by 11 years of civil war, which has greatly complicated relief efforts.

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