Magnitude-6.4 earthquake again rocks devastated areas of Turkey, Syria
ANKARA, Turkey - A new 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Monday killed three people and injured more than 200 in parts of Turkey that were laid waste two weeks ago by a massive quake that killed tens of thousands. Officials said more buildings collapsed, trapping occupants, and several people were injured in both Turkey and Syria.
Monday's earthquake was centered in the town of Defne, in Turkey's Hatay province, one the worst-hit regions in the magnitude 7.8 quake that hit on Feb. 6. It was felt in Syria, Jordan, Cyprus, Israel and as far away as Egypt, and was followed by a second, magnitude 5.8 temblor.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said three people were killed and 213 injured. Search and rescue efforts were underway in three collapsed buildings where a total of five people were believed trapped.
A number of buildings collapsed in the new quake, trapping people inside, Hatay's mayor Lutfu Savas said. He told NTV television that these may be people who had returned to homes or were trying move their furniture out of damaged buildings.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said at least eight people were hospitalized in Turkey. Syria's state news agency, SANA, reported that six people were injured in Aleppo from falling debris.
In Hatay, police search teams rescued one person who was trapped inside a 3-story building and were trying to reach three others inside, HaberTurk television reported.
The Feb. 6 quake killed nearly 45,000 people in both countries — the vast majority of them in Turkey, where more than a million and a half people are in temporary shelters. Turkish authorities have recorded more than 6,000 aftershocks since.
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A view from the area as demolishing works and debris removal efforts continue after the powerful twin earthquakes in Kahramanmaras, Turkiye on February 20, 2023. (Photo by Omer Urer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
HaberTurk journalists reporting from Hatay said they were jolted violently by Monday's quake and held onto to each other to avoid falling.
In the Turkish city of Adana, eyewitness Alejandro Malaver said people left homes for the streets, carrying blankets into their cars. Malaver said everyone is really scared and that "no one wants to get back into their houses."
The Syrian opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, reported that several people were injured in Syria’s rebel-held northwest after they jumped from buildings or when they wee struck by falling debris in the town of Jinderis, one of the towns worst affected by the Feb. 6 earthquake.
The White Helmets said several damaged and abandoned buildings collapsed in Syria’s northwest without injuring anyone.
In the Syrian city of Idlib, frightened residents were preparing to sleep in parks and other public places, while fuel lines formed at gas stations as people attempted to get as far as possible from any buildings that might collapse.
The Syrian American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria, said it had treated a number of patients — including a 7-year-old boy — who suffered heart attacks brought on by fear following the new quake.
Oktay said inspections for damage were underway in Hatay, and urged citizens to stay away from damaged buildings and to carefully follow rescue teams' directions.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Hatay earlier on Monday, and said his government would begin constructing close to 200,000 new homes in the quake-devastated region as early as next month.
Erdogan said the new buildings will be no taller than three or four stories, built on firmer ground and to higher standards and in consultation with "geophysics, geotechnical, geology and seismology professors" and other experts.
The Turkish leader said destroyed cultural monuments would be rebuilt in accordance with their "historic and cultural texture."
Erdogan said around 1.6 million people are currently being housed in temporary shelters.
The Turkish disaster management agency AFAD on Monday raised the number of confirmed fatalities from the Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey to 41,156. That increases the overall death toll in both Turkey and Syria to 44,844.
Search and rescue operations for survivors have been called off in most of the quake zone, but AFAD chief Yunus Sezer said search teams were continuing their efforts in more than a dozen collapsed buildings — mostly in Hatay province.
There were no signs of anyone being alive under the rubble since three members of one family — a mother, father and 12-year-old boy — were extracted from a collapsed building in Hatay on Saturday. The boy later died.
Authorities said more than 110,000 buildings across 11 quake-hit Turkish provinces were either destroyed or so severely damaged by the Feb. 6 quake that they need to be torn down.
The European Union’s health agency warned Monday of the risk of disease outbreaks in the coming weeks. The Centre for Disease Prevention and Controls said that "food and water-borne diseases, respiratory infections and vaccine-preventable infections are a risk in the upcoming period, with the potential to cause outbreaks, particularly as survivors are moving to temporary shelters."
"A surge of cholera cases in the affected areas is a significant possibility in the coming weeks," it said, noting that authorities in northwestern Syria have reported thousands of cases of the disease since last September and a planned vaccination campaign was delayed due to the quake.