Three people were killed on Monday 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 who were trapped in the rubble of newly collapsed buildings, Süleyman Soylu, the interior minister, said in a live broadcast. He said that 213 people had been hospitalised with injuries after the quakes measuring 6.4 and 5.8 in magnitude struck just minutes apart.
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 HaberTurk news channel that it had been forced to flee again. Witnesses in the city of Diyarbakir, 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 HaberTurk.
He appealed for tents and for rescue teams to help find survivors after buildings damaged two weeks ago fell down 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.
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Hatay earlier on
Monday, promising to “rebuild it from scratch”. He said that 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 some 13mn people.
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, was in Hatay on Sunday. “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 on Monday after the government wound down efforts to find survivors in the eight other regions affected by the earthquakes on February 6, the worst natural disaster in modern Turkish history.
Soylu warned people to stay away from their unsafe homes. People were taking “extreme risks” by returning to collect their belongings, he said.
More than 6,000 aftershocks have jolted the region since the quakes first struck, according to Afad. Sana, Syria’s state news agency, said that six people were injured in Aleppo in the latest quakes.