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The death toll from the earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria has climbed past 9,400, making it the deadliest seismic event in more than a decade.

Turkish authorities updated the country’s death toll to 6,957 on Wednesday.

In neighbouring Syria, the government has reported 1,250 deaths from Monday’s pre-dawn earthquake in the areas it controls.

The White Helmets, volunteer first aiders in a rebel-held enclave, have reported 1,280 deaths.

More than 30,000 people have been hurt and authorities expect the death toll to continue to climb as rescue workers race to pull survivors from the rubble in cities and towns across a wide area.

In 2011, a magnitude nine earthquake off the north-east coast of Japan triggered a tsunami, killing nearly 20,000 people.

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal in 2015 killed more than 8,800 people.

Relatives weep over the dead body of Goktug, a baby boy, in Elbistan, southern Turkey (Ismail Coskun/IHA/AP)

Amid calls for the government to send more help to the disaster zone, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to travel to the town of Pazarcik, the epicentre of the quake, and the worst-hit province of Hatay on Wednesday.

Turkey now has some 60,000 aid personnel in the area but with the devastation so widespread many are still waiting for help.

Nearly two days after the magnitude 7.8 quake struck south-east Turkey and northern Syria, rescuers pulled a three-year-old boy, Arif Kaan, from under the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in Kahramanmaras, a city not far from the epicentre.

With the boy’s lower body trapped under slabs of concrete and twisted rebar, emergency crews lay a blanket over his torso to protect him from below-freezing temperatures as they carefully cut the debris away from him, mindful of the possibility of triggering another collapse.

The boy’s father, Ertugrul Kisi, who was rescued earlier, sobbed as his son was pulled free and put in an ambulance.

“For now, the name of hope in Kahramanmaras is Arif Kaan,” a Turkish television reporter proclaimed as the dramatic rescue was broadcast to the country.

A van with coffins is parked next to a destroyed building in Gaziantep, south-east Turkey (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

A few hours later, rescuers pulled 10-year-old Betul Edis from the rubble of her home in the city of Adiyaman. Amid applause from onlookers, her grandfather kissed her and spoke softly to her as she was put in an ambulance.

But such stories were rare more than two days after Monday’s pre-dawn earthquake, which hit a huge area and brought down thousands of buildings, with frigid temperatures and ongoing aftershocks complicating rescue efforts.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined the Turkish emergency personnel and aid pledges have poured in.

But with devastation spread across multiple several cities and towns — some isolated by Syria’s ongoing conflict — voices crying from within mounds of rubble fell silent and despair grew from those still waiting for help.

In Syria, the shaking toppled thousands of buildings and heaped more misery on a region wracked by the country’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.

On Monday afternoon in a north-west Syrian town, residents found a crying newborn still connected by the umbilical cord to her dead mother. The baby was the only member of her family to survive a building collapse in the small town of Jinderis, relatives said.

A man prays on a collapsed building in Malatya, Turkey (Emrah Gurel/AP)

Turkey is home to millions of refugees from the war. The affected area in Syria is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, where millions rely on humanitarian aid.

As many as 23 million people could be affected in the quake-hit region, according to Adelheid Marschang, a senior emergencies officer with the World Health Organisation who called it a “crisis on top of multiple crises”.

Many survivors in Turkey have had to sleep in cars, outside or in government shelters.

“We don’t have a tent, we don’t have a heating stove, we don’t have anything. Our children are in bad shape. We are all getting wet under the rain and our kids are out in the cold,” Aysan Kurt, 27, said. “We did not die from hunger or the earthquake but we will die freezing from the cold.”

Mr Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million people have been affected. He declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces. More than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris in Turkey and some 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, authorities said.

In Syria, aid efforts have been hampered by the ongoing war and the isolation of the rebel-held region along the border, which is surrounded by Russia-backed government forces. Syria itself is an international pariah under western sanctions linked to the war.

Rescuers search for people in a destroyed building in Adana, Turkey (Francisco Seco/AP)

The United Nations said it is “exploring all avenues” to get supplies to the rebel-held north-west.

In addition to the thousands killed in Turkey, 37,011 have been injured.

The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit north-west Turkey in 1999.


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