The United Nations refugee agency has warned that the number of people to have fled Syria could reach 700,000 by the end of the year. The warning comes as Syria reels from the "bloodiest day" of the conflict so far.
UN aid agencies issued an appeal for $487.9 million (379 million euro) in financial aid on Thursday as the UN's refugee agency issued its latest warning over the rising number of Syrians fleeing the 18-month conflict.
Around 294,000 refugees have already fled to neighboring countries the UN said, with at least 700,000 expected to have left Syria by the end of the year. The figure far surpasses previous forecasts, which estimated that around 185,000 Syrians would have left by December.
"This is a significant outflow taking place, 100,000 people in August, 60,000 in September and at the moment 2,000 or 3,000 per day or night," Panos Moumtzsis, the UNHCR's chief coordinator for Syrian refugees, told reporters in Geneva.
"We are running out of time [to handle the crisis]," he added.
Most refugees fleeing the 18-month crisis have crossed into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey or are awaiting registration there. A further 5,000-6,000 Syrians have reached North Africa. Some have also arrived in southern Europe, including Cyprus and Greece.
Syria's 'deadliest day'
The UN's warning came a day after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 305 people were killed across Syria on Wednesday, making it the bloodiest day of the conflict so far.
"This is the highest toll in a single day since March 2011 [when the conflict began]. And this is only counting those whose names have been documented. If we count the unidentified bodies, the figure will be much higher," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told news agency AFP.
Among the dead were 14 people who were killed when twin bomb attacks hit the headquarters of the armed forces general staff in Damascus.
According to the Britain-based Observatory, the highest death toll of the uprising was previously recorded on July 19, when 302 people were killed across the country.
ccp/mz (AFP, Reuters, dpa)