Southeast Turkey was hit by another deadly earthquake on Monday, with rescue operations still underway to save people trapped under buildings.
It is the fourth major earthquake to hit the region in three weeks, following the February 6 earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria.
What happened in the last earthquake?
Monday’s event measured a magnitude of 5.6, according to Turkish authorities, who said the quake took place in Malatya province.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) put the magnitude at 5.2, saying it occurred at a depth of 6.15 kilometers (3.8 miles).
One person has been reported dead and 69 injured, and authorities say 29 buildings collapsed as a result of Monday’s tremors.
Malatya province was hit hard in the February 6 disaster – losing around 2,300 residents according to mayor Selahattin Gurkan.
On Monday, Yunus Sezer, who heads Turkey’s disaster and emergency management presidency (AFAD), said rescue teams had been deployed to five buildings in Malatya.
AFAD’s Director General of Earthquakes and Risk Reduction, Orhan Tatar, said the region had suffered what AFAD considers four independent earthquakes in the past three weeks, as well as more than 45 aftershocks measuring between 5.0 and 6.0. He called this “very extraordinary activity”.
AFAD tweeted that Monday’s quake had destroyed buildings and that search and rescue teams were being dispatched to the area.
The earthquake hits a region that has already been destroyed
On February 6, Turkey and neighboring Syria were rocked by 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people. Rescue and salvage work has been ongoing due to the enormous scale of destruction.
The death toll has risen every day since as rescue teams continue to retrieve bodies trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
More than 20 million people have been affected by the geological disaster in Turkey and another 8.8 million in Syria.
The United Nations said the February 6 earthquake was the deadliest in Turkish history.
Poor buildings pose political risk to Erdogan
More than 160,000 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in the February 6 earthquake. AFAD has repeatedly warned people to stay away from damaged buildings in earthquake zones.
To date, Turkish authorities have arrested 184 people for possible complicity in the collapse of a number of buildings in the region. On Saturday, authorities announced they would continue to expand the investigation.
The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been quick to blame developers for the massive damage. These are accused of using substandard materials and workmanship while turning a profit during Turkey’s construction boom – one of the main drivers of the country’s ailing economy.
Erdogan faces perhaps his biggest political challenge yet. He was elected prime minister in 2003 in the wake of another massive earthquake that killed over 18,000 people in 1999. Erdogan served as prime minister until 2014, when he ran for president and was elected to the position he still holds.
The country is now considering how to proceed with the elections planned for June.
Before the recent election, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) made a point of granting amnesty to builders whose structures did not meet Turkish construction standards.
Erdogan, who has ruled the country for two decades, has promised to rebuild around 270,000 homes in the region within a year.
Turkey’s electoral commission was due to send a delegation to the earthquake-hit region on Monday in an attempt to determine whether the count could be completed.
js/rs (AFP, dpa, Reuters)