New powerful earthquakes rock Turkey and Syria

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REUTERS: People react after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit in Antakya, southern Turkey, on Monday

The aftershocks centred in Turkey’s Hatay province are shallow, meaning they pose serious danger to those in the quake zone.

A shallow magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the Turkey-Syria border region after it was devastated two weeks ago by quakes that killed tens of thousands of people.

Monday’s aftershock was centred in Turkey’s southernmost province of Hatay at a depth of 2km (1.2 miles), the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre said.

The quake hit the city of Defne at 8:04pm (17:04 GMT) and was strongly felt in Hatay’s nearby capital of Antakya and in Adana, 200km (300 miles) to the north.

A second quake of magnitude 5.8 shook the region several minutes later, Turkey’s disaster management agency said. It was centred in Hatay’s Samandag district.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said the temblors were felt in Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt.

Hatay province is on the Mediterranean Sea, and the disaster agency urged people to stay away from the coast, warning that the quakes might cause the sea level to rise by 50cm (20 inches).

Syria’s state news agency, SANA, reported six people were injured in Aleppo from falling debris while the mayor of Hatay said a number of buildings have collapsed, trapping people inside.

‘Very scared’

Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Gaziantep, Turkey, said aftershocks were continuing and there were reports of more structures being destroyed in the region.

“There are buildings that are standing but have been damaged,” Baig said. “The fear is if there are more aftershocks like this, it could bring down those buildings, threatening lives. Many people here are very scared.”

Witnesses said Turkish rescue teams are running around after the latest quakes, checking to see if people need help.

Muna al-Omar said she was in a tent in a park in central Antakya when Monday’s quakes hit.

“I thought the earth was going to split open under my feet,” she said, crying as she held her 7-year-old son. “Is there going to be another aftershock?”

Magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes struck southeast Turkey and neighbouring Syria on February 6, killing more than 47,000 people and leaving one million homeless. The economic cost of the disaster is expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars.

Mehmet Kokum, an assistant professor of geology based in Elazig, Turkey, said there had been more than 5,000 aftershocks since February 6.

“This is quite expected” he told Al Jazeera. “We know in our experience the aftershocks will last from months to years. But it’s going to decrease day by day.”

Lutfu Savas, Hatay’s mayor, said a number of buildings collapsed on Monday. Savas said those trapped are believed to have either returned to their houses or were trying to move furniture from damaged homes.

In the Turkish city of Adana, Alejandro Malaver said people fled their homes for the streets and carried blankets to their cars, where many plan to sleep.

Syria hit again

Media outlets in Syria’s Idlib and Aleppo provinces reported some buildings had collapsed and electricity and internet services were disrupted in parts of the region, which was also badly affected by the quakes two weeks ago.

The news organisations said many people fled their homes and were gathering in open areas.

The Syrian American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria, said it treated a number of patients, including several who suffered heart attacks brought on by fear.

The Syrian Civil Defence, a volunteer emergency response group in opposition-held areas that is also known as the White Helmets, urged residents of northwest Syria to follow guidelines about how to respond to earthquakes and how to evacuate buildings.

The death toll from the quakes two weeks ago rose on Monday to 41,156 in Turkey, the disaster management agency said, and it was expected to climb further.

An estimated 385,000 apartments were destroyed or seriously damaged, and many people are still missing from the February 6 disaster.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said construction on nearly 200,000 apartments in 11 earthquake-hit provinces would begin next month.

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SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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