Disasters & Accidents

Three dead, 213 injured in two new quakes in SE Turkey

Ankara, Feb 20 (EFE).- At least three persons died and another 213 were injured in two new magnitude 6.4 and 5.8 earthquakes in the southeastern Turkish province of Hatay, one of the 11 zones that two weeks ago were devastated by two large temblors that killed at least 41,000 people in Turkey – and another 5,000 in Syria – and injured more than 105,000.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu updated the casualty figures on Monday, warning of the possibility that there could be more people trapped in the ruins of buildings that collapsed during the second round of quakes.

“We will try to assemble more information about ruined buildings,” said the minister, who also reported that at least 20 aftershocks had followed the Monday quakes.

The minister said that rescue teams are conducting searches for people trapped in the rubble of three buildings that collapsed.

The main temblor came at 5:04 pm in the Defne district, in the southern part of the city of Antakya, in Hatay province, according to AFAD, the Turkish emergency management agency, and the second one three minutes later.

The initial tsunami alert, issued because epicenter of the quakes was near the Mediterranean coast, was cancelled shortly afterwards by authorities.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that eight people had been hospitalized with injuries and warned the public not to enter any buildings because of the danger that they might collapse.

Refik Eryilmaz, the mayor of Samandag, the coastal town nearest to the epicenter of the second quake on Monday, told NTV television that several buildings had collapsed and that it was still not known whether anyone had been inside them when the temblor occurred.

He also said that it is possible that some local residents could have taken shelter from the intense cold in the remains of buildings damaged two weeks ago and he issued a desperate call for campaign tents to provide shelter for the public.

Both Antakya and Samandag have been knocked off the electricity grid, making it difficult to determine whether there are people buried under the collapsed buildings.

“There are collapsed buildings. The people are horrified. There were no people in the collapsed buildings. I see collapsed buildings but I think there was nobody inside,” the president of the Hatay Architectural College, Mustafa Ozcelik, told HalkTV.

Suzan Sahin, a CHP party lawmaker representing Hatay province, commented to HalkTV that nine buildings had collapsed and that there were certainly fatalities, although he could not specify how many.

Ahmet Ovgun Ercan, a prestigious geophysicist at the Technical University of Istanbul, told HalkTV that this quake, which he said lasted 17 seconds, is a normal occurrence in the region and expected that some already-damaged buildings had probably collapsed in the new tremors.

Lutfu Savas, the mayor of Antakya, the downtown zone of which is located about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the epicenter, said that several buildings had collapsed with people inside.

Since the quake on Feb. 6, not a single building in Antakya has been habitable, but teams have been combing through the rubble trying to find people still alive who have been trapped in the ruins.

Many survivors of the first two temblors have been gathering around bonfires in front of collapsed buildings to help identify bodies and could be at risk if a structure that is still standing collapses.

“It was terrible, broken windows have fallen on us. Everyone has come out of the tents in panic. Because of the darkness you still can’t see what has happened,” Ugur Sahin, a reporter for the daily BirGun, told EFE by phone.

AFAD also reported that several magnitude 4 aftershocks had occurred in the region of the pair of Monday quakes.

Hatay province is one of the 11 Turkish provinces that two weeks ago were devastated by the magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 tremors that demolished thousands of structures, killing tens of thousands and injuring more than 105,000.

Some 13 million people across the quake-hit region have been affected and – according to the latest figures – some 118,000 buildings, totaling 400,000 homes, have collapsed.

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