Unidentified victims of a deadly earthquake that killed thousands in Turkey and Syria are not included in the death toll, said Ali Babacan, leader of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), during a visit to the quake-stricken provinces.
“… If the identity has not yet been confirmed, it is not reflected in the number of those who lost their lives. I regret to say the death toll will grow,” Babacan said on Wednesday in Hatay, one of the southern provinces that witnessed the greatest destruction and where residents complained about the lack of efficient search and rescue operations.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were still sleeping on Monday was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
The quake flattened thousands of structures, trapping an unknown number of people and potentially impacting millions. Officials and medics said more than 16,200 people have died and that tens of thousands have been injured.
Babacan visited several regions affected by the earthquakes on Wednesday.
Speaking to journalists in Hatay, he criticized the government for the lack of coordination in search and rescue efforts and the distribution of aid among the victims.
The Turkish government is scrambling to house people forced into the street after their homes either collapsed or were too risky to stay in because of the aftershocks.
Hundreds of thousands spent the night in dormitories, schools, mosques and other public buildings, while others sheltered in hotels that opened their doors for free.
Supplying them with food and other basic aid has been a challenge.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), had earlier accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of failing to prepare the country for earthquakes during their 20 years in power.
Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.
The country’s last 7.8-magnitude temblor was in 1939, when 33,000 died in eastern Erzincan province.
Turkey’s Marmara region suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999, leading to the death of more than 17,000 people.
Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate İstanbul, a megalopolis of 16 million people filled with rickety homes.