The excavator tore into the remnants of the damaged building in southeast Turkey, bringing it crashing down into a cloud of dust — the latest menace facing survivors of the deadly February quake that ravaged the region.

Extending to the horizon, a cocoon of fine gray dust envelops the city of Samandag in the south of Hatay province, devastated by the Feb. 6 earthquake that killed more than 55,000 people and laid waste to parts of Turkey and Syria.

"We survived the earthquake but this dust will kill us," Michel Atik, founder and president of the Samandag Environmental Protection Association, said with a sigh. "We are going to die of respiratory diseases and lung cancer with all these hazardous materials."