New quake hits Turkey and Syria, killing six
February 22, 2023 12:33 PM
A 6.4-magnitude earthquake has rocked Turkey's southern province of Hatay and northern Syria, killing six people and sparking fresh panic after a massive February 6 tremor left over 45,000 dead in both countries.
The quake hit the Turkish town of Defne on Monday at 8:04 pm (1704 GMT) and was strongly felt by AFP teams in the nearby city of Antakya. It was also felt in Lebanon and Cyprus. More than 300 people were injured in Turkey and at least 150 were hurt in northwestern Syria.
The overall death toll from the earthquakes is now 42,310 in Turkey and 3,688 in Syria, according to authorities. Turkey's disaster management agency said on Twitter that a 5.8-magnitude quake followed three minutes later, with its epicentre in the Samandag district of Hatay province.
The agency recorded two more tremors with magnitudes of 5.2 around 20 minutes after the first on Monday. "The road moved like waves. The building moved back and forth, the cars moved left to right. It knocked me off my feet," said Mehmet Irmak, who works at a notary's office in Antakya.
"Hatay is no longer a safe place. We could hear a lot of buildings collapsing," said Irmak, who had been sleeping in his car for two weeks after the first quake. "We will wait for a new day, but I don't know what I'm going to do," he said.
Among the dead were three people who became trapped after returning to their damaged flats to retrieve belongings, said AFAD, warning people against going back to homes at risk. "It's no longer a habitable place, that's the reality," Kemal Oflazoglu, aged in his fifties, said. "We have a few things to sort out and we're leaving the town." On Tuesday, the organisation said it was sending 6,000 extra tents to the region to shelter those in need.
Images from DHA news agency showed a hospital in Antakya being evacuated, while broadcaster NTV reported that a hospital was evacuated in the city of Iskenderun. DHA said patients in an intensive care unit were taken by ambulance to field hospitals to continue their treatment.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said rescue workers were trying to find people trapped under rubble. An AFP journalist reported scenes of panic in Antakya, with the new tremors raising clouds of dust in the devastated city. The walls of badly damaged buildings crumbled while several people, apparently injured, called for help.
"It's more than fear, my heart is broken. The fear comes and goes, but the pain, the sadness remain," Ayse Altindag, 42, told AFP. "Because we've lost everything. Not just the house, our things... it's our childhood that's gone, our friends, the school, the street... even the tree where you would pick up fruit has disappeared."
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said five hospitals it supports in northwest Syria received several people who had sustained minor injuries, some when parts of damaged buildings fell on them. In government-held areas of Syria, Aleppo hospitals also received panic-stricken residents, while six people were injured by falling rubble, the state news agency SANA said. Al Razi hospital in Aleppo received 47 cases, state media reported.
"We rushed out, we don't know how we left. I was afraid that we would meet the same fate as those who died under the rubble," said Khadija Al Khalaf, a 45-year-old mother, in the rebel-held city of Azaz.