Six killed after latest earthquake shakes Turkey-Syria border
- The earthquake came as rescue work in Turkey slacked off
- Erdogan’s government faces criticism ahead of the elections
- The February 6 quake killed more than 47,000 people
ANTAKYA, Turkey, February 21 (Reuters) – Six people were killed in the latest earthquake in the Turkey-Syria border region, authorities said on Tuesday, two weeks after a massive tremor killed more than 47,000 people and injured hundreds or more had destroyed thousands of homes.
Monday’s 6.4-magnitude tremor, which arrived just as rescue work was faltering after the first devastating quake, was concentrated near the Turkish city of Antakya and was felt in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.
It was followed by 90 aftershocks, said Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), which inflicted fresh trauma on Antakya residents who were left homeless and living in tents by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6.
“To me, this is one of the signs of the apocalypse. I felt like we were going to die, that we were going to be buried here,” said 47-year-old blacksmith Murat Vural.
He called his friend shortly after Monday’s quake to tell him to get out of town. “It’s not a place we can stay anymore,” he said. “We’re mostly worried about our lives.”
According to official figures, more than 41,000 people were killed in the first quake in Turkey, while the death toll in neighboring Syria is around 6,000.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has been criticized for being too slow to respond by many Turks and for building policies that caused thousands of apartment buildings to collapse and victims were trapped under rubble.
“It is our duty to hold the wrongdoers accountable before the law,” Erdogan said in the southern province of Osmaniye.
He has been in power for two decades and faces presidential and general elections in May, although the disaster could delay it. Even before the earthquakes, opinion polls showed he was under the pressure of a livelihood crisis that could deepen as the disaster disrupted agricultural production.
PROMISE OF FAST RECOVERY
Erdogan has promised speedy reconstruction, although experts say it could be a recipe for another disaster if security measures are sacrificed in the race to rebuild.
“We will not run away from the ballot box or disregard democracy,” said Devlet Bahceli, an Erdogan ally and leader of the nationalist MHP party, adding that the opposition is “obsessed and delusional” about the government’s response to the earthquake I criticized and discussed the timing of the election.
“Turkey … will soon bury you at the ballot box,” he said.
Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 294 people were injured in the latest quake, adding that patients were evacuated from some health facilities that remained operational after the first tremors as buildings cracked.
In Antakya, a man hugged and comforted another who wept after news of people being killed in the already devastated city after they entered a building to retrieve belongings when the latest earthquake struck and brought down the building .
A rescue team lowered one of the dead, wrapped in a yellow sack, down a ladder from the destroyed apartment block before placing him in a coffin for transport in a city van.
In Syria, already wracked by more than a decade of 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 President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria said 1,414 people had been killed in government-controlled areas.
Additional reporting by Timour Azhari, Ezgi Erkoyun, Nevzat Devranoglu, Daren Butler and Jonathan Spicer; writing by Stephen Coates and Dominic Evans; Edited by Michael Georgy, Edmund Blair and Alex Richardson
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