Earthquake rescue phase ‘coming to a close,’ UN aid chief Martin Griffiths says

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The phase of the rescue after the major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria a week ago is “coming to a close” with urgency now switching to shelter, food, schooling and psychosocial care, the UN aid chief said during a visit to Syria on Monday.

“What is the most striking here, is even in Aleppo, which has suffered so much these many years, this moment ... was about the worst that these people have experienced,” Martin Griffiths said from the government-held northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo that was a major front line in the Syrian civil war.

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The February 6 earthquake struck a swathe of northwest Syria, a region partitioned by the 11-year-long war.

Griffiths said the United Nations would have aid moving from government-held regions to the opposition-held northwest, a front line across which aid has seldom passed during the conflict.

Aid appeals would be issued for all the regions hit by the disaster, he added.

“We’ll have assistance moving from here into the northwest but the northwest is only one part of Syria ... it’s also very important that we take care of the people here,” Griffiths said.

The death toll in Syria jumped on Monday.

The United Nations said more than 4,300 had been reported killed in the northwest, and more than 7,600 injured. The death toll in Syrian government stands at 1,414.

Griffiths said he had heard traumatic accounts of the disaster from survivors in Aleppo.

“People who lost their children, some of whom escaped, others stayed in the building. The trauma of the people we spoke to was visible and this is a trauma which the world needs to heal,” he said.

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