Fear, panic as new earthquakes hit Turkey-Syria border, killing 6

Magnitude 6.3 and 5.8 quakes rocked Turkey and Syria border region, sparking panic again; hundreds injured.

A member of Turkish police special forces carries a wounded man in Hatay province.
Monday's quake comes weeks after the region was devastated by magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes [Berkcan Zengin/Reuters]

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the Turkey-Syria border region, killing at least six people, two weeks after the area was devastated by quakes that killed more than 47,000 people in both countries.

Live updates: Turkey, Syria hit by new earthquakes

Monday’s quake hit the city of Defne in Hatay province at 8:04pm (17:04 GMT) and was strongly felt in the provincial capital, Antakya, as well as Adana province, 200km (300 miles) to the north. Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said a magnitude 5.8 quake followed three minutes later.

On Tuesday, AFAD chief Yunus Sezer raised the death toll in Turkey from three to six, and said that 294 people were wounded.

Monday’s tremors were felt in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

Syria’s state news agency, SANA, reported six people were injured in Aleppo from falling debris, while the mayor of Hatay said several buildings had collapsed, trapping people inside.

AFAD initially urged people in Hatay province, to the east of the Mediterranean Sea, to stay away from the coast, warning that the earthquakes might cause the sea level to rise by 50cm (20 inches).

Two bodies recovered from building

Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Antakya, Turkey, said two bodies were recovered from a collapsed building while a third man was carried out alive by rescuers.

“We understand that four men had gone into the building to recover some belongings. Authorities had warned not to go into the buildings but nobody really expected another earthquake of the magnitude that we’ve seen.”

INTERACTIVE_ Turkey Syria New Earthquake USGS

Resident Muna al-Omar said she was in a tent in a park in central Antakya when Monday’s quakes hit.

“I thought the earth was going to split open under my feet,” she said, crying as she held her seven-year-old son. “Is there going to be another aftershock?”

On February 6, magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes struck southeast Turkey and neighbouring Syria, killing more than 47,000 people and leaving one million homeless. The economic cost of the disaster is expected to run into tens of billions of dollars.

Mehmet Kokum, an assistant professor of geology based in Elazig, Turkey, said there had been more than 5,000 aftershocks since the February 6 quakes.

“This is quite expected,” Kokum told Al Jazeera. “We know from our experience, the aftershocks will last from months to years. But it’s going to decrease day by day.”

Lutfu Savas, Hatay’s mayor, said several buildings collapsed on Monday. Savas said those trapped are believed to have either returned to their houses or were trying to move furniture from damaged homes.

In the Turkish city of Adana, Alejandro Malaver said people fled their homes for the streets and carried blankets to their cars, where many planned to sleep.

Syria hit again

Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, an opposition activist in northern Syria, said February 6 quake survivors were terrified by the latest tremors.

“This earthquake, although it was shorter and a little bit weaker, caused more horror for people,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Because of the previous experience, people have panic and trauma, so everyone rushed outside. Some people got into accidents rushing out, some even jumped from their balconies to escape the earthquake. People here are not safe.”

Media outlets in Syria’s Idlib and Aleppo provinces reported some buildings collapsed and electricity and internet services were disrupted in parts of the region, which was also badly affected by the quakes two weeks ago. Many people fled their homes and were gathering in open areas.

The Syrian American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria, said it treated a number of patients, including several who suffered heart attacks brought on by fear.

The Syrian Civil Defence, a volunteer emergency response group in opposition-held areas also known as the White Helmets, urged residents of northwest Syria to follow guidelines about how to respond to earthquakes and evacuate buildings.

The death toll from the quakes two weeks ago rose on Monday to 41,156 in Turkey, the disaster management agency said – and it was expected to climb further. About 6,000 people died in Syria.

An estimated 385,000 apartments were destroyed or seriously damaged, and many people remain missing.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the construction of nearly 200,000 apartments in 11 earthquake-hit provinces would begin next month.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies