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Death toll from devastating earthquake in Syria likely to rise, UN warns

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Syria has said that the country’s death toll from last week’s deadly earthquake is likely to rise further as teams scramble to remove rubble in hard-hit areas.

“We’re hoping that this number will not increase by much,” Muhannad Hadi said on Thursday.

The UN has reported a death toll of about 6,000 for all of Syria, including 4,400 in the opposition-controlled northwest. 

That figure is higher than those reported by government authorities in Damascus and civil defence officials in the northwest, who have reported 1,414 and 2,274 deaths respectively.

“From what we are seeing … the devastation of this earthquake is really not giving us a lot of hope that this will be the end of it.”

Hadi noted that even before the earthquake, there were some 4.1 million people in need of aid in northwest Syria, many of whom were already displaced and have now become homeless or displaced again.

The UN and Syrian regime leader Bashar Al Assad reached a deal Monday to open two additional crossings, but critics say the UN should have used additional crossings without waiting for approval or found another way to get aid in, in light of the dire situation on the ground.

READ MORE:
UN admits aid failure for Syria as quake death toll soars

UN doing everything it can

“I can assure you that we have done everything we can from the very beginning,” Hadi said. “We asked everybody to put the interests of the people first. We asked everybody to de-politicise the humanitarian situation and focus on supporting us to reach the people.”

Hadi said 120 aid trucks had crossed into northwestern Syria from Türkiye as of Thursday.

He said the UN is “working with all parties” to open the route to aid, but acknowledged that “so far, we haven’t been successful.”

The UN has appealed for $397 million to provide “desperately needed, life-saving relief,” including shelter, food and health care for the next three months.

“What we need to focus on right now is the humanitarian work,” he said.

READ MORE:
WHO concerned of lack of aid in northwestern Syria after earthquake

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