A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck southern Turkey near the Syrian border late on Monday, setting off panic and further damaging buildings two weeks after the country’s worst earthquake in modern history left tens of thousands dead.
Two Reuters reporters said the tremors were strong and lasting, damaging buildings and leaving dust in the night air in central Antakya city, where it was centered. It was also felt in Egypt and Lebanon, Reuters reporters said.
Reports indicate that tremors could be felt as far away as Israel.
The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said the tremor struck at a shallow depth of 2 km (1.2 miles).
Police patrolled Antakya while ambulances rushed to the quake-hit area near the city center. Two people fainted, while others filled the streets around the central park making emergency calls on cell phones.
Reuters saw Turkish rescue teams running around on foot after the latest quake to check on residents, most of whom were living in temporary tents after the tremors two weeks ago.
Muna Al Omar, a resident, said she was in a tent in a park in central Antakya when the earthquake hit.
“I thought the earth was going to split open under my feet,” she said, crying as she held her 7-year-old son in her arms.
“Is there going to be another aftershock?” she asked.
The two larger earthquakes that hit on Feb. 6, which also rocked neighboring Syria, left more than a million homeless and killed far more than the latest official tally of 46,000 people in both countries.
Smaller tremors have jolted the region in the last two weeks, but the Monday quake was the largest since Feb. 6.
“It was very strong. It jolted us out of our places,” said Burhan Abdelrahman, who was walking out of his tent in a camp in Antakya city center when the earthquake struck.
“I called relatives in Syria, Adana, Mersin, Izmir, everywhere, to check on them.”
Turkey‘s disaster agency AFAD urged residents to stay away from the Mediterranean coast over a possible 50-centimeter rise in waters due to the quake.
Videos posted on social media, unverified by Reuters, showed passengers at Antakya airport taking cover in panic as the quake jolted the glass building.
HUMANITARIAN RELIEF CONTINUES
Hours earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on a visit to Turkey that Washington would help “for as long as it takes” as rescue operations in the wake of the Feb. 6 earthquake and its aftershocks were winding down, and focus turned to towards urgent shelter and reconstruction work.
The death toll from the quakes two weeks ago rose to 41,156 in Turkey, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority AFAD said on Monday, and it was expected to climb further, with 385,000 apartments known to have been destroyed or seriously damaged and many people still missing.
President Tayyip Erdogan said construction work on nearly 200,000 apartments in 11 earthquake-hit provinces of Turkey would begin next month.
Total U.S. humanitarian assistance to support the earthquake response in Turkey and Syria has reached $185 million, the U.S. State Department said.
Among the survivors of the earthquakes are about 356,000 pregnant women who urgently need access to health services, the U.N. sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA) has said.
They include 226,000 women in Turkey and 130,000 in Syria, about 38,800 of whom will deliver in the next month. Many of them were sheltering in camps or exposed to freezing temperatures and struggling to get food or clean water.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters