Infrastructure damage hinders earthquake aid efforts in Türkiye: UN

GENEVA, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The extensive damage to infrastructure caused by the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria is hindering aid efforts by the United Nations (UN) agencies, officials said on Tuesday.

The first international disaster assessment and coordination teams had now arrived at Adana airport in Türkiye, UN officials told a press briefing in Geneva. The teams were due to move to Gaziantep, the epicenter of the first quake, on Tuesday.

However, there is limited road access and a shortage of trucks to transport them to worksite. Turkish disaster authorities are therefore considering mobilizing helicopters, and trucks from other provinces farther away.

A UN representative on the ground told Tuesday's press briefing via video link that so far, some 8,000 people had been rescued by search and rescue teams.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it was providing kitchen sets, mattresses, and tents to those affected by the disaster.

"The recent earthquake is an absolute hammer blow for the people of Türkiye and displaced people in the region, notably Syrians, who had already suffered more than a decade of war and are being lashed by an economic crisis and winter storms," a UNHCR official said.

More than 1.7 million of the 15 million people inhabiting the ten Turkish provinces most affected by the earthquakes are Syrian refugees, according to UNHCR. In some of these provinces, one in two is a refugee.

Türkiye has hosted the world's largest refugee population since 2014. Around 4 million refugees and asylum-seekers are in Türkiye under temporary and international protection.

"We do not know the exact number of refugees impacted and we might not for some days, but we fear the number might be significant given the epicenter of the quake was close to areas with high concentrations of refugees," the UNHCR official said.

According to the latest media reports, more than 7,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured after massive earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria on Monday. UN officials say the death toll is likely to continue rising. In addition, many of the buildings in the affected areas are structurally unsound, and could collapse in the coming days.

The UN has announced a 25-million-U.S. dollar grant to kick-start the humanitarian response.

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