Earthquake in Turkey-Syria: The worst natural disaster in the last 100 years - Promises and warnings from Erdogan

Over 25.400 dead in Turkey and Syria

1BA80886 2148 47AA B892 1611657AD70F EARTHQUAKE, Syria, Turkey

Five days have passed since the deadly earthquakes in Turkey, with rescue operations continuing unabated in the affected areas as rescuers search for life in the rubble.

The tragic toll in Turkey continues to rise as the hours pass. The dead are now 21.848, while the injured exceed 80.100.

Authorities in Syria have announced 3.553 dead, bringing the total toll in the two countries to 25.401.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in the earthquake-hit zone today, declaring that the government will take measures to deal with the looting and to rebuild the damaged cities within a few weeks.

"We have declared a state of emergency. This means that henceforth those involved in looting or kidnapping should know that the heavy hand of the state is on their backs,” he said.

UN on earthquakes in Turkey: Worst natural disaster in 100 years

At the same time, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths called on the world community not to forget the thousands of people who need shelter and food in Turkey and Syria.

Griffiths, who was in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, spoke to families who have been displaced and left in the cold without food after the earthquake.

"I am here to make sure these people are not forgotten," he told reporters, praising Turkey's response to the disaster as "excellent" and hailing the "courage of the rescuers who are working around the clock hoping for a one more sound, one more survivor."

"It's the beginning and my experience is that people are always disappointed at the beginning," he said in an apparent reference to criticism of the authorities' response after the earthquake. As he said, what happened in the area around the epicenter of the earthquake is "the worst event of the last 100 years in the region".

As Griffiths said, a three-month operation is being launched for both Turkey and Syria with the aim of helping cover the costs of operations there.

He told Reuters he hoped aid in Syria would be distributed to both government-held and opposition-held areas, but noted that at that level things were "not clear yet."

Rescuers in opposition-held areas have criticized the United Nations and the international community for their slow response after the earthquake.

Yesterday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted for the first time that aid is "not arriving as quickly as expected".

"The disaster affected so many buildings (...) that unfortunately, we could not provide emergency aid as quickly as we had hoped," the Turkish head of state said during a visit to the city of Antiyaman (south), which has been severely affected by the disaster.