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Breaking: Another earthquake hits Turkey 24 hours after, death toll rises

Another earthquake hit Turkey early Tuesday morning after two others devastated the country and its neighbour Syria a day earlier, killed at least 4,800 people and trapped scores more under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The 5.8-magnitude quake struck at a depth of 1.2 miles in central Turkey, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said, as rescue efforts continued and as the death toll in Turkey alone rose past 3,300.

A winter storm causing freezing temperatures – which dropped to -5C overnight in some areas – has been hampering those working desperately to free people from the rubble of destroyed buildings, with the cold weather making the need to reach trapped survivors even more urgent.

In the badly hit Turkish city of Hatay, residents helplessly called out as the screams and shouts of those freezing under the rubble filled the air. Desperate to reach them in time, rescuers have been digging with their bare7 hands.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands have been left homeless and sleeping in their cars or searching for temporary accommodation after thousands of buildings were brought down on both sides of the border, pouring misery on an area already plagued by war, insurgency, refugee crises and a recent cholera outbreak.

The US Geological Survey said Monday’s first 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck at 4:17 am (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 11 miles.

The initial earthquake was so powerful it was felt as far away as Greenland and was followed by a series of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor that struck in the middle of search and rescue work on Monday.

Another earthquake of 5.6 magnitude struck central Turkey on Tuesday, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre said. While it was not as powerful as the two on Monday, it was recorded at a depth of 1.2 miles. Shallower quakes cause more damage, although it was initially unclear how much damage it caused.

The death toll in Syria stands at more than 1,500, according to the Syrian government and a rescue service in the insurgent-held northwest. 

In Turkey, the death toll climbed to 3,381 people, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said on Tuesday morning.

AFAD has said nearly 8,000 people have been rescued from 4,758 buildings destroyed in the Monday tremors. 

It said 13,740 search and rescue personnel were deployed and more than 41,000 tents, 100,000 beds and 300,000 blankets had been sent to the region. ‘The delivery of personnel and vehicles continued uninterrupted during the night,’ it said.

Temperatures overnight in the quake-hit Turkish city of Gaziantep sank to -5 C (23 F). 

Turkey has deployed more than 24,400 search and rescue personnel to the quake area. The number was expected to rise with the arrival of additional personnel though the wintry conditions were hampering their deployment, disaster management agency official Orhan Tatar said.

‘The adverse weather conditions continue in the region. Therefore, from time to time it may be difficult to transport these search and rescue teams to the region,’ he said.

Tatar said 10 ships were helping the rescue efforts, by transporting the wounded to hospitals, mainly from the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.

About 55 helicopters had conducted 154 sorties to transport emergency aid and around 85 trucks were distributing food, he said.

Tatar said his agency had received 11,342 reports of collapsed buildings, but only 5,775 of those reports have been confirmed.

However, despite the response the Turkish government was already facing criticisms from some in the country, and the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said he was ‘especially concerned’ about areas in Turkey and Syria from which they were yet to receive any information from.

The Guardian reported that its correspondent in Turkey had spoken to residents who were furious about what they said was a ‘negligent’ response in Hatay, Turkey’s southernmost province. The newspaper said it had been told the rescue effort had so far failed to reach the area, and that many were still trapped there.

The devastation from the quakes has sparked a global response, with dozens of nations from Ukraine to New Zealand vowing to send help. Several international rescue missions rushed to Turkey and Syria after both countries called for aid.

Only a vast international response will be able to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis. But a winter blizzard has covered major roads into the area in ice and snow and officials said three major airports have been rendered inoperable.

This has complicated deliveries of vital aid.

The situation in north-west Syria is even more complicated, with the challenge of getting aid across the frontlines between rebel and government forces. 

Much of the quake-hit area of northern Syria has already been decimated by years of war and aerial bombardment by Syrian and Russia forces that destroyed homes, hospitals and clinics.

The conflict is already shaping the emergency response, with Syria’s envoy to the United Nations Bassam Sabbagh seemingly ruling out reopening border crossings that would allow aid to reach areas controlled by rebel groups.

The Syrian health ministry reported damage across the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus, where Russia is leasing a naval facility.

Through the night in Turkey, survivors used their bare hands to pick over the twisted ruins of multi-storey apartment blocks – trying to save family, friends and anyone else sleeping inside when the first massive quake struck early Monday. 

‘Where is my mum?’ asked a distraught seven-year-old girl who was pulled from a collapsed building in Hatay, on the Turkish side of the border. The sense of disbelief was widespread, as residents struggled to comprehend the scale of the disaster. 

Some of the heaviest devastation occurred near the quake’s epicentre between Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, a city of two million where entire blocks now lie in ruins under gathering snow.

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