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New earthquake hits Turkey-Syria border region

February 21, 2023

More people have died after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the same border area that was devastated two weeks ago. Germany's foreign minister visited the quake-hit region on Tuesday.

Earthquake damage from the first quakes in Adana, Turkey
The WHO described the previous earthquake as 'the worst natural disaster in the region for a century'Image: Clodagh Kilcoyne/REUTERS

At least six people have been confirmed dead after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the Turkey-Syria border region on Monday night, authorities said on Tuesday.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said at least 294 other people were injured.

The quake hit near Defne in the district of Samandag but it was felt as far as Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. 

"We had just arrived in Gaziantep when we felt the tremor. Our car started shaking — for about 10 seconds. We immediately thought it was an earthquake because we use an alert app. And then we saw people had run out of buildings here in the city center," DW correspondent Julia Hahn said from the scene.

"That's when we knew it was a powerful one."

The initial quake was followed by a second, magnitude 5.8 tremor.

The Monday night earthquakes happened just before two top German politicians were due to arrive in southeastern Turkey to pledge ongoing support.

A woman in anguish after an earthquake hit near Antakya in Hatay province, Turkey, February 20, 2023
One eyewitness said people left homes for the streets and that 'no one wants to getback into their houses'Image: Clodagh Kilcoyne/REUTERS

Lutfu Savas, the mayor for Hatay said a number of buildings have collapsed, trapping people who had either returned to their homes or were trying to move furniture from damaged homes.

Abdel Kafi, a Syrian activist in north-west Syria said, "It was strong like the first one but did not last long... it scared people and people rushed to the streets."

The event triggered panic and a stampede in Syria, with some people jumping from buildings, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It comes two weeks after two major earthquakes devastated the same region and left at least 47,000 dead. 

Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said more than 6,000 aftershocks had been recorded since the 7.8-magnitude quake hit Turkey and Syria on February 6.

German ministers visit quake-hit region

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Interior Minister Nancy Faeser arrived in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday.

They are scheduled to visit the badly hit cities of Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.

"Our sympathy is not exhausted in words and it will not diminish when the catastrophe and its consequences are replaced by other headlines in the news," Baerbock said on Tuesday.

New quakes bring fresh terror

The German army has already delivered more than 340 tons of aid to Turkey.

On Tuesday, the air force is set to deliver another 13 tons of aid including 100 tents, 400 beds and more than 1,000 sleeping bags.

This is in addition to the German search-and-rescue teams who helped with relief efforts.

Meanwhile, the German government has also pledged almost €50 million (around $53 million) in humanitarian assistance for people in Syria.

US promises to help Turkey 'as long as it takes'

Hours before the latest earthquake, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was on a visit to Turkey, vowed the American government would help "for as long as it takes." 

Blinken pledged another $100 million in disaster assistance after a helicopter tour of the devastated Hatay province.

On Monday, Blinken met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) talks to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their meeting at Esenboga airport in Ankara
Blinken met Erdogan, just before the Turkish leader flew to Hatay, already ravaged by the earlier earthquakeImage: Burhan Ozbilici/AFP/Getty Images

Erdogan said construction work on nearly 200,000 apartments in 11 earthquake-hit provinces of Turkey would begin next month.

Blinken also praised the work of the Syrian White Helmets and the search-and-rescue teams who assisted quake victims in Syria's opposition-held areas. 

Germany's Steinmeier calls for 'enduring' aid to quake victims

Also on Monday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on Germans to show "enduring solidarity" with those affected by earthquakes in Syria and Turkey.

"Our humanity remains in demand even after images from the earthquakes are replaced in the daily news," Steinmeier said.

He was speaking at an event in Berlin to commemorate the quake victims, organized by the Turkish Community in Germany and the VDSH association of German-Syrian aid organizations.

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zc, lo/nm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)