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At least 3 dead as another strong earthquake hits Turkey-Syria border

Panic set in after an earthquake struck the Turkey-Syria border on Feb. 20, two weeks after two earthquakes killed more than 46,000 people in the region. (Video: Reuters)
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ISTANBUL — A strong earthquake rattled southern Turkey and northern Syria late Monday, killing at least three people and sparking panic in a region devastated two weeks ago by powerful temblors that ripped through cities and towns and killed more than 46,000 people.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said in a message posted on Twitter that the earthquake, recorded at 6.3 magnitude, was centered in the southern Hatay province, an area that experienced some of the worst destruction in the two earlier earthquakes, on Feb. 6.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, speaking in Hatay late Monday, said that three people had died after the quake and 213 people had been sent to hospitals. He warned citizens to avoid entering buildings to recover their belongings, because of frequent aftershocks.

Turkey sits on two major fault zones and has frequently suffered from earthquakes. The Feb. 6 earthquakes, the deadliest in Turkey’s modern history, left a path of destruction spanning hundreds of miles as village homes and city apartment blocks were flattened. In places, the tremors formed new canyons.

Monday’s earthquake was felt as far away as Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. Frightened people fled into the streets in several Turkish cities, along with Aleppo in Syria and other nearby Syrian towns, residents reported. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said late Monday there had been at least 20 aftershocks.

Lutfu Savas, the mayor of Hatay, told Turkish broadcaster NTV the authorities had received reports of people trapped under rubble. A state hospital in Iskenderun, northwest of Hatay, was evacuated, Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency reported.

‘We had hope’: Antakya residents left to dig out themselves and their dead

The White Helmets, a civil defense force in northern Syria, said on Twitter that several civilians had been injured by “falling debris, stampedes, and jumping from high areas.” Walls and balconies had collapsed in several areas, the group said.

Monday’s earthquake occurred as authorities in Turkey and Syria are still recovering the victims of the 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes that struck southern Turkey on Feb. 6 — a calamity that killed more than 40,000 people, as tens of thousands of buildings collapsed. More than a million people have been left homeless.

The response by authorities to the Feb. 6 earthquakes sparked anger on both sides of the border. In Turkey, people in the affected areas said government rescue teams in some cases took days to arrive, as people died under the rubble. Residents in rebel-held northwest Syria said they were left to fend for themselves, receiving a trickle of global attention and international aid.

Death toll from Turkey-Syria earthquakes passes 46,000; U.S. vows more aid

Oktay, speaking on television Monday, said “there is nothing to panic about.”

“We have enough equipment, search and rescue personnel, and construction equipment in the field,” he said.

Sarah Dadouch in Beirut, Louisa Loveluck in Istanbul and Cate Brown in Washington contributed to this report.