Fresh tremors hit earthquake-devastated province in Turkey
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Six people were killed when two fresh earthquakes struck the province of Hatay in Turkey, exactly two weeks after the region was devastated by larger tremors that killed almost 45,000 people.
Rescue teams were searching for five people trapped in the rubble of newly collapsed buildings, interior minister Süleyman Soylu said in a live broadcast on Monday evening, after the quakes measuring 6.4 and 5.8 in magnitude struck just minutes apart. As of Tuesday, six people were confirmed dead and a further 6,254 were injured.
Families already made homeless and sheltering in tents bundled children into cars for safety. One family that had recently returned to its second-storey flat in Antakya told Habertürk news channel that it had been forced to flee again. Witnesses in the city of Diyarbakır, located about 500km from Antakya, said they had experienced violent shaking.
“The 6.4-magnitude quake unleashed a very big and destructive effect,” İbrahim Güzel, mayor of the town of Defne in Hatay, told Habertürk.
He appealed for tents and for rescue teams to help find survivors after buildings damaged two weeks ago collapsed in the latest tremors. “Of a population of 166,500 people, about half had already left. There aren’t enough municipal personnel here” to meet people’s needs, he added.
The death toll from the initial quakes on February 6 has reached 41,156 in Turkey, the national disaster agency Afad said. In Syria, nearly 4,000 people have died, according to the Associated Press. Those earthquakes measured 7.8 and 7.5 in magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had visited Hatay earlier on Monday, promising to “rebuild it from scratch”. He said construction of nearly 200,000 new homes across the region would begin next month.
An estimated 345,000 homes were destroyed by the initial quakes in 10 provinces, home to about 13mn people.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken was in Hatay over the weekend. “It’s hard to put into words,” he said in Ankara on Monday. “Countless buildings, communities, streets, damaged or fully destroyed.”
The US has pledged $185mn in humanitarian aid to Syria and Turkey.
Rescue work was continuing in Hatay and one other province after the government wound down efforts to find survivors in the eight other regions affected by the February 6 earthquakes, the worst natural disaster in modern Turkish history.
The interior minister warned people to stay away from their unsafe homes, adding that people were taking “extreme risks” by returning to collect their belongings.
More than 6,000 aftershocks have jolted the region since the quakes first struck, according to Afad.
Sana, Syria’s state news agency, said six people were injured in Aleppo in the latest quakes.