Strong earthquake kills 19 people in Turkey and Greek islands

Three women were pulled from the rubble of an earthquake in Izmir, Turkey on Saturday, a day after it hit the Aegean sea.
Locals and officials search for survivors at a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey.
Locals and officials search for survivors at a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey.PHOTO: REUTERS
Rescuers search for survivors among the rubble of a collapsed building after a powerful earthquake struck Izmir, on Oct 30, 2020.
Rescuers search for survivors among the rubble of a collapsed building after a powerful earthquake struck Izmir, on Oct 30, 2020.PHOTO: AFP
Rescuers and local volunteers carry a wounded victim on a stretcher from a collapsed building in Izmir, on Oct 30, 2020.
Rescuers and local volunteers carry a wounded victim on a stretcher from a collapsed building in Izmir, on Oct 30, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Nineteen people were killed in Turkey and Greece after a strong earthquake struck the Aegean Sea on Friday (Oct 30), bringing buildings crashing down and setting off tidal waves which slammed into coastal areas and islands.

People ran onto streets in panic in the Turkish city of Izmir, witnesses said, after the quake struck with a magnitude of up to 7.0.

Neighbourhoods were deluged with surging seawater which swept debris inland and left fish stranded as it receded.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said 17 people died, one due to drowning, while 709 people were injured.

On the Greek island of Samos two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were found dead in an area where a wall had collapsed.

Search and rescue operations continued at 17 collapsed or damaged buildings, AFAD said. Authorities were setting up tents with a total capacity of 2,000 people near areas with the highest damage, Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said.

Ilke Cide, a doctoral student who was in Izmir’s Guzelbahce region during the earthquake, said he went inland after waters rose following the earthquake.

“I am very used to earthquakes... so I didn’t take it very seriously at first but this time it was really scary,” he said, adding the earthquake had lasted for at least 25-30 seconds.

Crisscrossed by major fault lines, Turkey is among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.

More than 17,000 people were killed in Aug 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck Izmit, a city south-east of Istanbul. In 2011, a quake in the eastern city of Van killed more than 500.

Flooding

Ismail Yetiskin, mayor of Izmir's Seferihisar, said sea levels rose as a result of the quake. "There seems to be a small tsunami," he told broadcaster NTV.

Footage on social media showed debris including refrigerators, chairs and tables floating through streets on the deluge. TRT Haber showed cars in Izmir's Seferihisar district had been dragged by the water and piled on top of each other.

Idil Gungor, who runs a hotel in Izmir’s Seferihisar district, told broadcaster NTV that people were cleaning the debris after the floodwaters receded. She said fish had washed up on the garden of the hotel, around 50 metres from the shore.

Residents of the Greek island of Samos, which has a population of about 45,000, were urged to stay away from coastal areas, Eftyhmios Lekkas, head of Greece's organisation for anti-seismic planning, told Greece's Skai TV.

"It was a very big earthquake, it's difficult to have a bigger one," said Lekkas.

High tidal wave warnings were in place in Samos, where eight people were lightly injured, according to a Greek official.

"We have never experienced anything like it," said George Dionysiou, the local vice-mayor. "People are panicking."

A Greek police spokesman said there was damage to some old buildings on the island.

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece - which have been caught up in a bitter dispute over ownership of potential hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean - spoke by phone after the earthquake and said they were ready to help one another, Ankara said.

AFAD put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.6, while the US Geological Survey said it was 7.0. It struck at around 1150 GMT (7.50pm in Singapore) and was felt along Turkey's Aegean coast and the northwestern Marmara region, media said.