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10 November 2011

Fresh earthquake hits eastern Turkey

A 5.7-magnitude earthquake has caused two hotels and twenty-three other buildings to collapse in eastern Turkey, leaving at least five people dead, dozens injured and many others trapped inside, according to a government official.

Wednesday's quake struck at 9:23pm local time (19:23GMT) the province of Van, which was hit over two weeks ago by a 7.2 earthquake that killed around 600 people.

"Twenty people were found alive and five were dead," Besir Atalay, the deputy prime minister, was quoted as saying in televised remarks after visiting the scene.

TV footage showed residents and rescuers trying to lift debris to evacuate people. More than 50 people were believed to be trapped in the provincial capital of Van.

One hotel, the Bayram, known as Van's oldest, was being used by journalists and aid workers in the city.

The quake collapsed 25 buildings, 22 of which were empty, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said from the scene.

"Search and rescue operations are continuing in three buildings," he added.

Though most of the affected buildings were either empty or deemed unfit for human habitation, two were described as hospitals - one severely damaged and a maternal hospital set ablaze following the tremors.

Swift response

Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports that rescue teams have mobilised more rapidly than in the quake two weeks ago.

"They have the equipment and forces they need on hand," she said.

Nine planes carrying almost 300 rescuers were dispatched to the quake region, national television said, as rescue operations were carried out with mechanical diggers under arc lights.

There had been another earthquake of similar magnitude earlier in the day on Wednesday.

NTV television said rescue teams were being sent to the region from the capital Ankara and other areas, a week after workers had begun clearing debris from the earlier quake.

The Turkish Red Crescent has sent 15,000 tents and 300 rescue workers to aid in the efforts.

About 1,400 aftershocks have rocked the region since the 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the province on October 23. Many residents had been living in tents, despite the cold, too afraid to return to their homes.

Efforts ongoing

Sahin Tokay, a restaurant owner in Van told Al Jazeera that he still feared for the safety of his home following the October 23 earthquake. Tokay said every day since last month's earthquake his family had been trying to get a tent from the government.

Tokay, who was in his home with his family at the time of Wednesday's quake said "we don't think anyone will help us tonight, so we will stay on the street tonight".

Muzaffer Baca, vice president of the International Blue Crescent, a Turkish aid agency, told Al Jazeera that the state was doing everything to respond to this earthquake, but that a lack of coordination became evident in the villages outside Van where "the most in need are suffering".

Citing upcoming winter weather set to hit below zero, Baca said what was most needed now "are heaters, blankets and tents for shelter."

At least 2,000 buildings were destroyed in the stronger temblor and authorities declared another 3,700 buildings unfit for habitation.

Al Jazeera and agencies