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6.4 earthquake jolts southern Turkish province of Hatay

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A magnitude-6.4 earthquake hit the southern Turkish province of Hatay on Monday evening, two weeks after the city was struck by two powerful earthquakes in southeast Turkey, the NTV news website reported.

Hatay was among the 11 provinces hit hardest by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake in the early morning hours of Feb. 6 and later a magnitude-7.5 quake the same day that have claimed the lives of at least 45,000 people in Turkey and parts of Syria.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD) announced that the epicenter of the most recent earthquake was Hatay’s Defne district.

The 6.4-magnitude earthquake, which struck at 8:04 pm (1704 GMT), was followed by several aftershocks including one measuring 5.8.

AFAD also announced that at least six people were killed and 294 injured after the earthquake in Hatay since some buildings that were already damaged in the previous earthquakes had collapsed.

News reports said some people had to stay in their damaged homes because there weren’t enough tents for them outside.

Professor Okan Tüysüz, a geologist from İstanbul Technical University, told NTV that Monday’s earthquake in Hatay was triggered by the Feb. 6 earthquakes but was separate and not an aftershock.

Video footage showed people running in panic as well as search and rescue teams and ambulances in the streets.

Seismologists have been warning for a while that the Feb. 6 earthquakes could trigger other temblors in the region, asking people to stay away from damaged buildings.

On a street in Antakya, Ali Mazlum, 18, told AFP: “We were with AFAD, which was looking for the bodies of our family members when the quake hit.

“You don’t know what to do. … We grabbed each other and right in front of us, the walls started to fall. It felt like the earth was opening to swallow us up.”

Mazlum, who has lived in Antakya for 12 years, was looking for the bodies of his sister and her family as well as his brother-in-law and his family.

A few meters away, a digger clearing a road was covered with rubble after the new quake.

Aftershocks

“This one just fell,” a rescuer said, referring to a collapsed building.

Hatay province is on the Mediterranean Sea, and AFAD said the sea level could rise by 50 centimeters, warning people to stay away from the coast.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay urged people on Twitter to stay away from damaged buildings and to follow officials’ warnings.

According to AFAD, more than 6,000 aftershocks have been recorded since the 7.8-magnitude temblor hit Turkey and Syria, leaving millions homeless.

Officials said after the Feb. 6 earthquake that aftershocks would be felt for a year because of the force of the first quake.

AFP correspondents in the city of Aleppo, Syria’s second city, said people ran into the streets after the new quake.

An AFP photographer in the city of Azaz, further north, said buildings that had been damaged in the previous quake collapsed.

The Feb. 6 earthquake killed 41,156 people in Turkey and 3,688 in Syria, but experts expect the toll to rise as the rubble is cleared and rescue operations come to an end.

Eleven provinces were hit by the previous earthquakes and on Sunday, officials said rescue operations continue only in two: Hatay and Kahramanmaraş.

The earthquake two weeks ago ravaged swaths of southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, damaging more than 118,000 buildings.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday promised to build nearly 200,000 new homes within a year that were more sturdy and no more than four-storeys high.

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