The death toll in the devastating earthquake that struck southern Turkey and neighbouring Syria on February 6 has surpassed the 50,000 mark.
While Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority reported 44,218 deaths on Friday night, Syria announced death toll of 5,914, taking the combined toll in the two countries to above 50,000.
Meanwhile, Ankara has expedited the construction work, with President Tayyip Erdogan pledging to rebuild homes within a year.
However, experts are concerned about the pace of construction saying that authorities should put safety before speed. Some buildings that were meant to withstand tremors crumbled in the latest earthquakes, reports Reuters news agency.
An estimated 1,60,000 buildings containing 5,20,000 apartments crumbled in the 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Turkey.
The Turkish government aims to build 2,00,000 apartments and 70,000 village houses at a cost of at least $15 billion, Erdogan said. But the US bank J P Morgan estimates the rebuilding costs to touch $25 billion.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), at least 1.5 million people have been left homeless, adding that 5,00,000 new homes are needed.
The UN agency said that it requested $113.5 million from the $1 billion in funds appealed for by the United Nations last week, adding that it would focus this money on clearing away mountains of rubble.
Meanwhile, survivors who have left the southern Turkey region have been accommodated in tents, container homes and other government-sponsored accommodations.
"The glassware was very beautiful, more than usual, but then we had this (earthquake), and it all got ruined," Saeed Sleiman Ertoglu, 56, a resident of In Antakya, told Reuters. He estimated that just 5 per cent of his merchandise survived.
"What can we do?," he said. "This is an act of God, and God’s will always bear gifts."