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Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll passes 28,000

The death toll from the earthquakes in Turkey and northwestern Syria has risen to over 28,000 as rescue efforts continue.

The number of deaths in Turkey rose to 24,617 on Sunday, while more than 4,500 people have died in Syria.

According to United Nations, about 5.3 million people in Syria may be homeless after the earthquakes, while nearly 900,000 people are in urgent need of hot food in Turkey and Syria.

The Syrian government has approved the delivery of humanitarian aid to quake-hit areas outside its control, according to state media.

Turkey says it is working to open two new routes into rebel-held parts of Syria.

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.  

Freezing temperatures have impeded attempts to reach survivors.

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.

In Turkey’s Hatay province, thousands of people are been sheltered in sports centers or fair halls, while others spent the night outside, huddled in blankets around fires.

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said the total number of deaths in the country had risen to 3,419, with another 20,534 people injured.

While the death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 812 people, with some 1,450 injured, according to the Health Ministry.

In the country’s rebel-held northwest, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, or White Helmets, the paramedic group leading rescue operations, said that at least 790 were killed and more than 2,200 injured.

That has brought the overall total to 5,021.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) says over 20,000 people may die as a result of the natural disaster in Turkey and Syria.

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas; Editing by Adeniyi Bakare