A new earthquake of magnitude 6.4 struck the Turkish province of Hatay on Monday, one of the worst hit by the February 6 earthquakes that left at least 41,000 people dead.
The tremor, with its epicentre south of the city of Antioch, struck at 17:04 GMT, according to data from the Kandilli observatory in Istanbul, and was also felt in neighbouring countries.
No information is yet available on further damage or casualties, but numerous reporters in Antioch reported that the tremor caused panic among survivors in tents. At least one half-collapsed building collapsed and debris from others damaged parked cars, reports NTV.
Ahmet Ovgun Ercan, a leading geophysicist at Istanbul Technical University, told HalkTV that the quake, which he estimated to last 17 seconds, is a normal phenomenon and predicted that some already damaged buildings will have collapsed.
Since the earthquake on the 6th, none of the buildings in Antioch are still habitable, but there are debris removal teams that may have been trapped by a collapse.
In addition, many survivors are in the habit of gathering around bonfires in front of collapsed buildings to help identify bodies, and may be at risk if a neighbouring building that is still standing collapses.
“It was terrible, broken windows fell on us. Everyone came out of the tents in panic. In the darkness you can’t see what has happened yet,” Ugur Sahin, a reporter for the daily BirGün, told EFE by phone. The national emergency centre AFAD, which locates the epicentre of the quake in the Defne neighbourhood of Antioch itself, reports a second aftershock of magnitude 5.8 with its epicentre in Samandag.
Earthquakes leave more than 41,000 people dead
The search for survivors of the February 6 earthquakes is nearing completion, with a provisional death toll of 41,156, Turkish authorities said on Monday.
Rescue work has been completed in ten of the eleven provinces affected by the disaster and is only continuing in fifteen landslides in Hatay province, said Yunus Seker, chairman of the national emergency service AFAD.
In total, the search teams, comprising nearly 20,000 experts, have traced 20,870 collapsed buildings, he added.
AFAD has already erected some 300,000 tents in the region to house survivors, and plans to set up at least 100,000 prefabricated houses in the next two months.
Right now, 1.3 million people are either in tents, prefabricated houses or temporary shelters in the affected region, Seker said.
Nearly one million have moved to other provinces in the country, 392,000 through evacuation points set up by the government and 480,000 by their own means, he said.
The area affected by the 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes is about 100,000 square kilometres and was home to some 13 million people.
According to the latest data, some 118,000 buildings in the region, corresponding to some 400,000 houses, have either collapsed or have been rendered unusable and need to be demolished.