The death toll in Turkey from two powerful earthquakes that hit on Feb. 6 has risen to 50,500, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on Friday.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep — home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria — as people were sleeping on Feb. 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a magnitude 7.5 temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
The earthquakes, which according to a recent study by Chinese researchers were likely the most potent doublet ever to occur on land anywhere in the world, caused massive devastation across more than a dozen provinces in the country’s south and southeast as well as in parts of Syria.
The death toll has been increasing since Feb. 6 as new bodies are discovered during the removal of the rubble of flattened buildings.
Many claim that the Turkish government is undercounting the number of earthquake victims to mask the true scale of the disaster since it is under fire for failing to prepare the country for earthquakes and other disasters as well as responding poorly to the disaster.
Soylu said among the earthquake victims who left the disaster zone, 20 percent of them had returned to their former places of residence.
The minister said a total of 66,000 container homes have been set up in the earthquake zone and that there are plans to increase the number to 100,000.
Although more than two months have passed since the earthquakes, victims say they have difficulty in meeting their basic needs for shelter, water and food.