‘Disaster Of The Century’: Earthquake Deaths Top 20,000 In Turkey, Syria

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The devastating earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria early Feb. 6 has now claimed over 20,000 lives, in what Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared the “disaster of the century,” according to the Associated Press (AP).

Spanning an area of more than 311 miles, the disaster zone that was once home to 13.5 million people in Turkey has proven overwhelming for many rescue workers who must now decide where to help, AP reported Feb. 9. The immense amount of casualties and bitterly cold weather conditions are proving difficult for rescue workers, some of whom say the death and destruction is taking a toll on them psychologically, according to the outlet. Even with more than 110,000 rescue workers and over 5,000 vehicles being shipped from all over the world, blocked roads, cold conditions and the vast area affected have reportedly hampered rescue efforts considerably.

With many buildings completely destroyed, workers have been forced to prioritize areas where there is a better possibility of finding survivors, even as families reportedly beg them to search through the rubble of a building where their family members once lived. Some rescue efforts have been suspended in place of demolishing unstable structures to prevent further injury to those on the ground, according to AP. (RELATED: Haunting Videos From Turkey Show Buildings Instantly Crumbling The Moment Earthquakes Hit)

Mehmet Yilmaz, 67, looked on as crews brought down the rest of a building where six of his family members were stuck, the outlet reported. “There’s no hope. We can’t give up our hope in God, but they entered the building with listening devices and dogs, and there was nothing,” Yilmaz told AP.

Another survivor, Mehmet Nasir Dusan, told the outlet that even though there was no hope of finding his family alive, he would not leave the area until he recovered their bodies. “My family is destroyed now,” he said.

With more than 21,000 now dead and the number expected to rise, Turkey’s earthquake has surpassed two past deadly seismic events: the 2011 quake that struck Fukushima, Japan, and killed over 18,400 people, and the earthquake that struck Turkey in 1999 and resulted in roughly 18,000 deaths, AP reported.