The death toll from the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria earlier this week has reached 9,638 on Wednesday, with rescue efforts becoming "harder" due to freezing weather in the two countries, authorities said.

In its latest update, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said the overall death toll currently stood at 7,108, while the number of injured persons increased to 40,910, reports Anadolu News Agency.

More than 96,670 search and rescue teams are currently conducting operations in the field, the AFAD said.

Two major earthquakes of 7.7 and 7.6 magnitudes hit the province of Kahramanmaras, Turkey on Monday.
Two major earthquakes of 7.7 and 7.6 magnitudes hit the province of Kahramanmaras, Turkey on Monday.IANS

"As a result of the negotiations with the Turkish Foreign Ministry, 5,309 personnel coming from other countries for help were dispatched to the disaster area," it added.

Besides rescue teams, blankets, tents, food, and psychological support teams were also sent to the affected areas.

A total of 70,818 family tents were set up to shelter survivors, AFAD said, adding that 5,434 vehicles, including excavators, tractors and dozers, were sent to the disaster area.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to visit Kahramanmaras and Hatay, two of the worst-hit regions, later on Wednesday, the BBC quoted his office as saying.

Powerful earthquake in the al-Arbaeen neighborhood in Hama province, Syria
People transfer a victim of a powerful earthquake in the al-Arbaeen neighborhood in Hama province, Syria, on Feb. 6, 2023. According to the Syrian health ministry and the Britain-based pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake jolted the northern Syrian provinces of Latakia, Tartous, Hama, Aleppo, and Idlib on Monday, killing at least 870 and injuring 1,326IANS

He will also go to Pazarcik, epicentre of Monday's quake.

In Syria, at least 2,530 people have died in both government-controlled areas and rebel-held regions, while nearly 4,000 others were injured.

Aid agencies and rescue workers say the death toll is likely to increase further with many people still trapped under the rubble.

Meanwhile, rescue workers have not been able to access all the disaster areas as a cold and wet weather system is moving through the quake-hit region in the two countries, plunging temperatures below freezing.

Temperatures are already bitterly low, but are forecast to fall several degrees below zero on Wednesday.

Scattered showers and snow in the region are expected to continue, putting the lives of those trapped underneath the rubble, who have already gone days without food and water, at risk of hypothermia, reports CNN.

People check damaged buildings after the earthquakes in Malatya, Turkey, on Feb. 6, 2023.
People check damaged buildings after the earthquakes in Malatya, Turkey, on Feb. 6, 2023. Many people were killed and 2,323 others injured after two strong earthquakes jolted Turkey on early Monday and damaged more than 1,700 buildings, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said.IANS

The World Health Organization has also warned that the death toll in the two countries could end up surpassing 20,000.

The earthquake-stricken region in Turkey is also home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war in their homeland.

The devastating 7.8 tremor struck Turkey's southern province of Kahramanmaras at 4.17 a.m. on Monday morning, which was followed by a 6.4-magnitude temblor a few minutes later in Gaziantep province.

The epicentre of the 7.8-magnitude quake was 23 km east of Nurdagi in Gaziantep, at a depth of 24.1 km.

At around 1.30 p.m, a third 7.5-magnitude tremor hit Kahramanmaras, which officials said was "not an aftershock".

Turkey's southern province of Hatay and Syria's northern Aleppo city suffered the biggest casualties, while Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus also felt the tremor.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency on Tuesday in the 10 provinces.

Turkey is also observing a seven-day period of national mourning.

(With inputs from IANS)