19 killed, over 700 injured as strong earthquake hits Turkey, Greek islands

19 killed, over 700 injured as strong earthquake hits Turkey, Greek islands. A strong earthquake struck the Aegean Sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Samos on Friday, killing at least 19 people and harming over 700 in the midst of collapsed buildings and flooding, news agency The Associated Press quoted an official as saying.

According to Reuters, a witness said that people ran onto streets in panic in the Turkish city of Izmir, witnesses said, after the shake struck with a magnitude of up to 7.0. A small tsunami also struck the Seferihisar district south of Izmir.

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

Seventeen people died, one due to drowning, while 709 people were injured, Reuters quoted Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) as saying.

On the Greek island of Samos two teenagers, a boy and a young lady, were discovered dead in an area where a wall had collapsed. Among the dead were the wife and two children of the secretary-general of the Turkish Medical Association’s Izmir branch, AP reported.

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

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted condolences, saying “Words are too poor to describe what one feels before the loss of children.”

Former US Vice-President Joe Biden also, tweeted: “Jill and I send our prayers to the people of Greece and Turkey following today’s earthquake. We’re grateful for the brave rescuers saving others, and for the governments of Greece and Turkey putting aside their differences to support each other.”

Crisscrossed by significant fault lines, Turkey is among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude shake struck Izmit, a city southeast of Istanbul. In 2011, a shudder in the eastern city of Van killed more than 500, AP reported.

Video on Twitter showed flooding in the Seferihisar district, and Turkish officials and broadcasters called on people to stay off the streets after reports of traffic congestion. Izmir Mayor Tunc Soyer urged residents to not enter damaged buildings and to be aware of social distancing and mask mandates in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rescue workers try to spare residents trapped in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir on Friday (Photo Credits: AP)

Flooding

Ismail Yetiskin, mayor of Izmir’s Seferihisar, said sea levels rose as a result of the shake. “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 meters (55 yards) from the shore.

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

“We have never experienced anything like it,” said George Dionysiou, the local vice-mayor, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “People are panicking.” A Greek police spokesman said there was damage to some old buildings on the island.

The leaders of Turkey and Greece – caught up in a bitter dispute over exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean – talked by phone and expressed hopes that both countries would see a speedy recovery from the tremor, Turkey’s presidency said.

Both leaders said they were ready to support the other country if necessary and emphasized the importance of solidarity.

“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote in a tweet.

“That two neighbors show solidarity in difficult times is more valuable than many things throughout everyday life,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wrote in a tweet responding to Mistotakis.

Cooperation between the two countries after the devastating 1999 earthquake led to a period of warmer ties between them.

AFAD put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.6, while the U.S. Land Survey said it was 7.0. It was felt along Turkey’s Aegean coast and the northwestern Marmara region, media said.

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