Turkey, Syria death toll surpasses 5,000 as Erdogan declares state of emergency

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The death toll from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and multiple aftershocks in Turkey and Syria rose to more than 5,000 on Tuesday as more bodies were pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the total number of deaths in Turkey had risen to 3,549 people. Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay had said earlier that 20,534 people were injured.

That brought the number of people killed to 5,151, with another 1,602 people confirmed dead on the Syrian side of the border.

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In a speech on Tuesday, Erdogan declared as a disaster zone the 10 provinces affected by the devastating earthquakes in southern Turkey, imposing a state of emergency in the region for three months.

He said that 70 countries had offered help in search and rescue operations and that Turkey planned to open up hotels in the tourism hub of Antalya, to the west, to temporarily house people impacted by the quakes.

The earthquake struck early Monday morning, bringing down thousands of buildings. Rescuers were racing frantically to find more survivors but their efforts were being impeded by temperatures below freezing and some 200 aftershocks, which made the search through unstable structures perilous.

Countries around the world dispatched teams to assist in the rescue efforts, and Turkey's disaster management agency said more than 24,400 emergency personnel were now on the ground. But with such a wide swath of territory hit by Monday’s earthquake and nearly 6,000 buildings confirmed to have collapsed in Turkey alone, their efforts were spread thin.

Attempts to reach survivors were also impeded by temperatures below freezing and close to 200 aftershocks, which made the search through unstable structures perilous.

Nurgul Atay told The Associated Press she could hear her mother's voice beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the city of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province, but that her and others efforts to get into the ruins had been futile without any rescue crews and heavy equipment to help.

“If only we could lift the concrete slab we'd be able to reach her,” she said. “My mother is 70-years-old, she won't be able to withstand this for long.”

Across Hatay province, just southwest of the earthquake's epicenter, officials say as many as 1,500 buildings were destroyed and many people reported relatives being trapped under the rubble with no aid or rescue teams arriving.

In areas where teams worked, occasional cheers broke out through the night as survivors were brought out of the rubble.

The quake, which was centered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.

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