Deadly earthquake strikes Turkey and Greece, both countries 'ready to help each other'

·4-min read

At least 19 people have been killed and hundreds injured after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey’s western coast and parts of Greece on Friday as both nations vowed to help the other in their recovery efforts.

The Turkish government's disaster agency said 17 people had died, one due to drowning, while the number of people injured rose to 709.

Among the dead were the wife and two children of the secretary-general of the Turkish Medical Association’s Izmir branch, the group said.

The tremor could be felt as far away as in Istanbul and on Greek islands, where officials said two teenagers had been found dead after a wall had collapsed in an area of Vathy, a town on the island of Samos. High tidal waves were seen in both countries and led to flooding on parts of the Izmir coast.

Greek public television said the quake also caused a mini-tsunami on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Samos, damaging buildings.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.0 magnitude quake was registered 14km (8.6 miles) off the Greek town of Karlovasi on Samos.

Turkey's disaster agency reported a lower magnitude of 6.6 for the quake while Greece's seismological agency said it measured 6.7.

Search and rescue operations continued at 17 collapsed or damaged buildings in Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city, the agency 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.

Images from Izmir showed collapsed buildings and dazed people trying to make their way through rubble piled high on the streets.

Other images on social media showed water rushing through the streets of Izmir from an apparent sea surge. Thick white plumes of smoke rose from various parts of the city where buildings had collapsed.

Aerial footage on Turkey's NTV television showed entire city blocks turned to rubble.

TRT television showed rescuers being helped by residents and police using chainsaws as they tried to force their way through the rubble of a seven-floor building that had collapsed.

Rescuers called for silence for signs of any survivors, clearing boulders and other debris in a human chain. CNN Turk showed one woman being pulled out alive.

Turkey and Greece indicated they would work together if needed, despite recent tensions between the two neighbours over rights in the areas of the eastern Mediterranean thought to be rich in natural resources.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis alluded to the tensions writing on Twitter: "Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together.”

He called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, offering condolences, following the deaths of civilians in the Turkish city of Izmir.

Erdogan responded to the tweet with his thanks and offered his condolences.

“Turkey, too, is always ready to help Greece heal its wounds. That two neighbours show solidarity in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life,” he wrote.

Expressions of solidarity came from the French government who offered to provide assistance to both Turkey and Paris’s close ally Greece.

'It was chaos'

On Samos, near the quake's epicentre, people rushed out into the streets in panic.

"The walls of some houses have crumbled and several buildings are damaged," the island's deputy mayor Michalis Mitsios was quoted as saying by public broadcaster ERT.

"It was chaos," added fellow deputy mayor Giorgos Dionysiou. "We have never experienced anything like this."

High tidal wave warnings were in place on the island where eight people were injured, according to a Greek official.

The Greek civil protection agency told Samos's residents in a text message to "stay out in the open and away from buildings".

The island's airport was also closed as a precaution. Greece and Turkey are both situated in one of the world's most active earthquake zones.

In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey's northwest, killing more than 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul. Another quake in 2011 in the southeastern province of Van resulted in more than 600 deaths.

In Greece, the last deadly quake killed two people on the island of Kos, near Samos, in July 2017.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)