© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley attends a news conference on food security in Yemen at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
ROME (Reuters) – The head of the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Saturday he was confronted with “apocalyptic” scenes as he visited earthquake-stricken areas in southern Turkey.
Strong earthquakes, which began on Feb. 6, have struck both Turkey and neighbouring Syria, killing more than 50,000 people according to the latest figures released on Friday.
“There is only one way to describe what I saw today: apocalyptic,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said after visiting the city of Antakya in Turkey’s Hatay province.
“Entire neighborhoods have been flattened; homes destroyed, schools and shops closed; lives torn apart. The scale of devastation here is truly incomprehensible,” he said.
The official added in a statement that the situation on the Syrian side amounted to a “catastrophe on top of a catastrophe,” referring to the past 12 years of civil war.
The WFP said Beasley visited a U.N. logistics hub where trucks are loaded with food and other emergency supplies before crossing over into northwest Syria.
He stressed the urgency of scaling up food deliveries to Syria “through all routes – without any restrictions”, and called for “all parties to facilitate access”.
Northwest Syria, which is controlled by opposition groups at war with President Bashar al-Assad and which has a population that was already dependent on aid for basic needs, was the area of the country worst hit.
Increasing aid deliveries are linked to the opening of additional crossings from Turkey into rebel-held areas.
One of these, Bab al-Hawa, was already in use under U.N. Security Council authorisation and Assad has given exceptional clearance for two others to be opened for three months.