Death toll rises to over 16,000 in major earthquakes in Turkey as experts fear hundreds of thousands fatalities

The death toll in the two major earthquakes in southeastern Turkey has risen to 16,170 as of Feb. 9 afternoon, with experts estimating that the toll will further increase in the upcoming days. As the number of demolished buildings is over 6,000, renowned geologist Prof. Dr. Övgün Ahmet Ercan has predicted that the number of people under rubble is 184,000.

Duvar English

Some 16,170 people have yet lost their lives and 64,194 others have been injured in two major earthquakes that struck southeastern Turkey early on Feb. 6. 

The number of demolished buildings has been yet recorded as 6,444. 

Some 13.5 million people have been affected in 10 provinces, in an area spanning 1,000 square kilometers, Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said in comments in the southeastern province of Gaziantep. 

"We would like to indicate that we are facing a very big natural disaster since it is an earthquake that covers an area of 1,000 square meters. Since the quake happened at a depth of 7 kilometers from the earth's surface, damages have occurred in the roads," he said. 

Renowned geologist estimates 184,000 people stuck under rubble

Experts fear that the death toll will rise in the upcoming days, with geologist Prof. Dr. Övgün Ahmet Ercan estimating that the number of people under rubble is 184,000. 

"Some 6,000 structures have been demolished. This corresponds to 48,000 flats in total via 4 floors, 8 flats (each floor). This corresponds to 192,000 people under rubble via 4 people (in each flat). Some 8,000 people have been rescued. Some 184,000 (more) people are under rubble," Ercan tweeted. 

He said that since only 1 person for each 25 stuck in rubble was being rescued on average, only 5% of the people waiting to be rescued have a chance of survival. 

Many people in the disaster zone have been sleeping their cars or in the streets under blankets, fearful of going back into buildings shaken by the 7.7 magnitude tremor early on Feb. 6 - already Turkey's deadliest since 1999. 

The initial quake was followed hours later by a second one with a magnitude of 7.6. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. But residents in several damaged Turkish cities have voiced anger and despair at what they said was a slow and inadequate response by the authorities.

Erdoğan flew to the eastern Kahramanmaraş province on Feb. 8 to conduct inspections in the affected areas. 

Pope calls for support for quake victims

Meanwhile, Pope Francis offered his prayers for the victims on Feb. 8 and called on the international community to continue to support rescue and recovery efforts.

"I am praying for them with emotion and I wanted to say that I am close to these people, to the families of the victims and everyone who is suffering from this devastating disaster," he said

"I thank those who are offering help and encourage everyone to show solidarity with these countries, some of which have already been battered by a long war," he added at the end of his weekly audience in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.