(AP) — Survivors of the earthquake that jolted Turkey and Syria 15 days ago, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving hundreds of thousands of others homeless, dealt with more trauma and loss Tuesday after another strong quake and aftershocks rocked the region.
The 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Monday evening had its epicenter in the Defne district of Turkey’s Hatay province, which was of the area’s most affected by the February 6 magnitude 7.8 quake that killed nearly 46,000 people in the two countries.
Turkey’s disaster management authority, AFAD, said the new quake killed six people and injured 294 others, including 18 in critical condition. In Syria, a woman and a girl died as a result of panic during the earthquake in the provinces of Hama and Tartus, pro-government media outlets said.
Monday’s quake was felt in Jordan, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. A magnitude 5.8 quake followed, along with dozens of aftershocks. The White Helmets, northwest Syria’s civil defense organisation, said about 190 people suffered injuries in rebel-held areas and that several flimsy buildings collapsed but there were no reports of anyone stuck under the debris.
In Turkey, teacher Zuher Capar, 42, said he was mourning the loss of relatives in the original earthquake and having a meal with his aunt and uncle near the Hatay town of Samandag when they felt Monday’s temblor.
“It shook a little, then it grew strong,” he said. “The electricity went and there were screams everywhere. There were small children in the house. They were screaming, my aunt was crying.”
On February 6, Capar rushed to try to help his cousin, the cousin’s wife and the couple’s small children out of the rubble of their collapsed home, but they did not survive.
“We had barely overcome the sadness (from the first earthquake),” he said.
While his large family’s home withstood the quake earlier in the month, it was damaged on Monday. Capar said they are too frightened to sleep there and plan to stay in a large tent and cars.
“We are trying to stay strong but it is a terrifying process. The cities we knew, the memories we had, have been destroyed,” he said. “When we go in the streets, there is only rubble and heavy machinery. It’s like a horror movie scene.”
Turkish officials warned residents not to go into the remains of their homes, but people have done so to retrieve what they can. Three of the people killed Monday were inside a damaged four-story building when the new quake hit.
Aftershocks and the instability of the structure complicated the rescue effort, and it took several hours for search crews to find the bodies, Turkish news agency DHA said.
Dr Tahsin Cinar, an anesthesiologist using vacation time to help provide medical care in Hatay as a representative of the Turkish Medical Association, said earthquake survivors need serious help with their mental health.
“They feel so alone, so deserted and very anxious. Even a small tremor leads to a big anxious reaction,” he said.