UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that the devastating earthquakes that decimated parts of Türkiye and Syria are "one of the biggest natural disasters in our times."
"We mourn the loss of so many – and the tragic toll keeps growing. Thousands of buildings have collapsed. Tens of thousands of people are exposed to unforgiving winter conditions. Schools and hospitals have been destroyed. Children are enduring terrible trauma," Guterres told reporters at the UN's New York headquarters.
"We are sadly aware that we haven’t yet seen the full extent of the damage and of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes," he added.
At least 17,134 people were killed in Türkiye and 70,347 others injured since two earthquakes, centered in Kahramanmaras province, hit the south of the country early Monday. More than 13 million people have been affected in 10 Turkish provinces.
In neighboring Syria, over 3,300 people have so far been confirmed killed in the country's northwest, and over 5,200 injured.
Guterres said the first UN aid convoy crossed into northern Syria earlier on Thursday from Türkiye via the Bal al-Hawa crossing. It included six trucks laden with shelter equipment and "other desperately needed relief supplies," he said.
"More help is on the way, but much more, much more is needed," he said.
The UN chief emphasized that Türkiye has exhibited "unparalleled generosity" in hosting up to 3.6 million Syrians who fled the country's ongoing conflict, some for more than a decade.
"People are facing nightmare on top of nightmare. The earthquake struck as the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria was already worsening, with needs at their highest level since the conflict began," he said.
Martin Griffiths, Guterres' humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, has already arrived in Türkiye and will visit Gaziantep, Aleppo, and Damascus to assess the situation and determine how the UN will proceed.
Guterres maintained that the UN is ready to assist the Turkish government "in any way we can."
"In the face of this epic disaster, I strongly appeal to the international community to show the people of Türkiye and Syria the same kind of support and generosity with which they received, protected and assisted millions of refugees and displaced people in an enormous show of solidarity," he said.
"Now is the hour to stand up for the people of Türkiye and Syria."Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.