ANKARA: Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced Monday that the death toll from last month’s major earthquakes has risen to 48,448 as authorities rush to set up container cities to house those rendered homeless for the longer term.


More than 54,000 people have died as a result of this conflict so far, and most of them were killed in Syria.

Soylu, speaking at a press conference in one of the provinces hit by the quakes, Malatya, said that 6,660 foreign nationals, mostly Syrians, were among the toll in Turkey and that authorities were still trying to identify 1,615 victims.

More than 115,000 people were hurt in the earthquake and aftershocks in Turkey, and millions more were forced to seek refuge in tents or look for alternative housing.

Although President Tayyip Erdogan has promised to have houses rebuilt within a year, it will be many months before thousands of people can finally abandon their makeshift tents and shipping container homes and the daily food lines in favor of more permanent dwellings.

Soylu stated that the government intends to place 115,585 containers for as many families in 239 sites across the affected region. To date, he said, 23 sites had been established, and a total of 21,000 containers had been set up, housing 85,000 people.

Meanwhile, a commission appointed by the United Nations to investigate the delivery of emergency aid to Syria in the wake of the earthquake reported Monday that the UN, the Syrian government, and other actors were to blame.

These allegations are the latest to join a growing chorus of those who are critical of the global body’s response to the earthquake that killed over 6,000 people in Syria, the vast majority of whom lived in the northwest, in opposition-held territory, close to the Turkish border.

“While there were many acts of heroism amid the suffering, we also witnessed a wholesale failure by the Government and the international community, including the UN, to rapidly direct life-saving support to Syrians in the most dire need,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the commission.

As a result, the people of Syria feel “abandoned and neglected by those supposed to protect them, in the most desperate of times,” the report said. The warring parties also failed to agree on a ceasefire and to allow life-saving aid to pass through any available route.