February 26. 2024. 4:41

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New earthquake hits parts of Turkey and Syria: ‘You can see the fear in people’s eyes’

A new 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit parts of Turkey and Syria on Monday following the devastating earthquake two weeks ago, further traumatising people living in the region, an Irish aid worker has said.

Turkey’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, said at least three people were killed. Officials said more buildings collapsed, trapping occupants, and several people were injured in both countries.

Kieran McConville, part of the media team with Irish overseas aid charity Concern, who is currently in southern Turkey, said people in the region felt a “substantial tremor” on Monday. Mr McConville himself felt the earthquake tremors, but is uninjured.

“This is really going to set people back… you can see the fear in people’s eyes,” he told The Irish Times.

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Mr McConville said the tremor would be “very traumatising” coming two weeks after a major earthquake hit the region killing 45,000 people, destroying buildings and leaving thousands homeless.

“People had started to go back into buildings, this has set them back,” he said.

The Irish aid worker said reports from staff near the centre of the tremor on Monday were that more buildings had collapsed.

The latest tremor was “very worrying” for the two countries, particularly Syria, which did not have the same capacity to respond to the humanitarian crisis, he said.

Mr McConville said that, from speaking to people on the ground, it was clear the trauma from the crisis was “deep” — however, he added the flow of aid into the region was underway.

Worst-hit region

Monday’s earthquake was centred in the town of Defne, in Turkey’s Hatay province, one the worst-hit regions in the magnitude 7.8 quake that hit on February 6th.

It was felt in Syria, Jordan, Israel and as far away as Egypt, and was followed by a second magnitude 5.8 quake.

A number of buildings collapsed in the new earthquake, trapping people inside, Hatay’s mayor Lutfu Savas said.

He told NTV television that those trapped may be people who had either returned to homes or were trying move furniture from damaged properties.

Turkish vice president Fuat Oktay said at least eight people were taken to hospital in Turkey.

Syria’s state news agency Sana reported that six people were injured by falling debris in Aleppo.

The February 6th earthquake has killed nearly 45,000 people in both countries – the vast majority in Turkey. Turkish authorities have recorded more than 6,000 aftershocks.

HaberTurk journalists reporting from Hatay said they were jolted violently by Monday’s quake and held on to to each other to avoid falling.

In the Turkish city of Adana, witness Alejandro Malaver said people left homes for the streets, carrying blankets into their cars. He added that people are really scared and “no one wants to get back into their houses”.

The Syrian Civil Defence group, also known as the White Helmets, reported that several people were injured in the rebel-held north west after they jumped from buildings or were struck by falling debris in the town of Jinderis, one of the towns worst affected by the February 6th earthquake.

The White Helmets added that several damaged and abandoned buildings collapsed in Syria’s north west without injuring anyone.

The Syrian American Medical Society, which runs hospitals in northern Syria, said it had treated a number of patients – including a seven-year-old boy – who suffered heart attacks brought on by fear after the new quake.

Mr Oktay said inspections for damage were under way in Hatay, and urged citizens to stay away from damaged buildings and to carefully follow rescue teams’ directions.

Authorities issued a warning to citizens to stay away from the coastline over the possibility of rising sea levels, but the warning was lifted a couple of hours later.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Hatay earlier on Monday and said his government would begin constructing close to 200,000 new homes in the quake-devastated region as early as next month.

On Monday, the AFAD disaster management agency raised the number of confirmed fatalities in Turkey from the earlier earthquake to 41,156. That increases the overall death toll in Turkey and Syria to 44,844.