UN aid chief Martin Griffiths appealed on Saturday to remember thousands of people who needed shelter and food while rescuers kept searching for survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit southern Türkiye and northwestern Syria.
Speaking during a news briefing in the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, as rescuers worked behind him, Griffiths said he spoke to families who had been displaced and left cold and hungry by the quake.
"I am here to make sure these people are not forgotten," he told reporters.
Griffiths praised Türkiye’s response to the disaster as "extraordinary" and hailed the "courage of first responders working 24-hours, all the time, hoping for one more sound, one more person who survived."
"It's the beginning and in my experience people are always disappointed in the beginning," he said, in an apparent reference to criticism over the response to the quake.
He said what happened in the area around the epicenter of the quake was a "worst event in 100 years in this region."
He apparently meant the region's worst natural disaster: Monday's earthquake was Türkiye’s most devastating since 1939. Syria's 11-year war, which has killed hundreds of thousands and made millions homeless, remains the region's deadliest event in recent history.
Griffiths said he was launching a three-month operation for both Türkiye and Syria to help pay for the costs of operations there.
Griffiths also told Reuters he hoped in Syria aid would go to both government and opposition-held areas, but that things with this regard were "not clear yet".
Rescuers in opposition-held areas have criticized the United Nations and the international community for not responding quickly enough to the urgent needs there.