The death toll from the catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria rose to more than 16,000 as more bodies were pulled from the rubble of collapsed homes in the stricken zone, Turkey’s disaster management agency said.
The agency said 12,391 people had been confirmed killed in Turkey after Monday’s early morning earthquake and series of aftershocks, which brought down thousands of buildings in south-eastern Turkey.
On the other side of the border in Syria, another 2,902 people have been reported to have been killed.
Rescue workers continued to pull living people from the damaged homes but hope was starting to fade amid freezing temperatures more than three full days since the quake hit.
It comes after the president of Turkey acknowledged “shortcomings” in his country’s response to the world’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the especially hard-hit Hatay province yesterday, where more than 3,300 people died and entire neighbourhoods were destroyed. Residents there have criticised the government’s efforts, saying rescuers were slow to arrive.
Mr Erdogan, who faces a tough battle for re-election in May, reacted to the mounting frustration by acknowledging problems with the emergency response to Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake but said the winter weather had been a factor.
The earthquake also destroyed the runway at Hatay’s airport, further disrupting the response.
“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,” Mr Erdogan said. “We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.”
He also hit back at critics, saying “dishonourable people” were spreading “lies and slander” about the government’s actions.