Two weeks after the disaster, a new earthquake hits the Turkish-Syrian border
By Ali Kucukgocmen and Henriette Chacar
ANTAKYA, Turkey (Reuters) – Another earthquake struck the border region between Turkey and Syria on Monday, just two weeks after the area was devastated by a larger quake that killed more than 47,000 people and damaged hundreds of thousands of homes or were destroyed.
Monday’s quake, this time measuring 6.4 magnitude, was centered near the southern Turkish city of Antakya and was felt in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.
It struck at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said.
Hatay Mayor Lutfu Savas told broadcaster HaberTurk he had received reports of some people stuck under rubble after the latest quake. Three people were killed and more than 200 injured, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.
In Samandag, where the country’s disaster and emergency management agency AFAD reported one death, residents said more buildings had collapsed but most of the city had already fled after the first earthquakes. Debris and discarded furniture lined the dark, deserted streets.
Muna Al Omar said she was inside a tent in a park in central Antakya when the ground started shaking again.
“I thought the earth would rip under my feet,” she said, crying as she held her 7-year-old son in her arms.
Hours earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a visit to Turkey, said Washington would help “for as long as needed” as rescue efforts following the February 6 earthquake and its aftershocks waned and the focus shifted to urgent housing needs. and reconstruction work.
The death toll from the tremors two weeks ago rose to 41,156 in Turkey, AFAD said on Monday, and is expected to rise further as 385,000 homes are known to have been destroyed or badly damaged and many people are still alive be missed.
President Tayyip Erdogan said construction work on nearly 200,000 homes in 11 earthquake-hit Turkey provinces would start next month.
Total U.S. humanitarian assistance in support of earthquake response in Turkey and Syria has reached $185 million, the U.S. State Department said.
Among the earthquake survivors are about 356,000 pregnant women who urgently need access to health services, the UN Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency said.
That includes 226,000 women in Turkey and 130,000 in Syria, of whom about 38,800 will give birth over the next month. Many of them took refuge in camps or faced freezing temperatures and struggled to get food or clean water.
In Syria, already wracked by more than a decade of civil war, the north-west has seen the highest number of deaths, where 4,525 people have been killed, according to the United Nations. The area is controlled by insurgents who are at war with troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, making relief efforts difficult.
Syrian officials say 1,414 people have been killed in areas controlled by Assad’s government.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said a convoy of 14 of its trucks drove into north-west Syria from Turkey on Sunday to help with rescue operations.
The World Food Program has also pressured authorities in that region to stop blocking access for aid from Syrian government-controlled areas.
As of Monday morning, 197 trucks loaded with UN supplies had entered northwest Syria through two border crossings, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey have returned to their homes in north-west Syria to contact loved ones affected by the devastation.
At the Turkish Cilvegozu border crossing, hundreds of Syrians were queuing early Monday morning to cross.
Mustafa Hannan, who dropped off his pregnant wife and three-year-old son, said he saw about 350 people waiting.
The 27-year-old auto electrician said his family would go away for a few months after their house in Antakya collapsed and accept a pledge from the authorities allowing them to spend up to six months in Syria without losing a chance to live in Syria return to Turkey.
“I worry they won’t be left behind,” he said. “We have already been separated from our nation. Will we now also be separated from our families? If I rebuild here but they cannot return, my life will be lost.”
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Henriette Chacar; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Huseyin Hayatsever, Ezgi Erkoyun in Turkey and Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru; Writing by Michael Georgy and Dominic Evans and Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alex Richardson, Alexander Smith, Alison Williams and Lisa Shumaker)