Rescuers search for survivors as Aegean earthquake death toll rises

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Rescue teams are scouring the debris of eight collapsed buildings in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and the north of the Greek island of Samos, killing at least 28 people.

More than 800 others were injured in the quake which struck on Friday afternoon, toppling buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, and triggering a small tsunami in the district of Seferihisar and on Samos.

The quake was followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

Early on Saturday, onlookers cheered as rescuers lifted teenager Inci Okan out of the rubble of a devastated eight-floor apartment block in Izmir’s Bayrakli district.

Her dog, Fistik, was also rescued, Sozcu newspaper reported.

Friends and relatives waited outside the building for news of loved ones still trapped inside, including employees of a dental clinic that was located on the ground floor.

Turkey Earthquake
Medics and rescue workers carry an injured survivor to an ambulance (Darko Bandic/AP)

Two other women, aged 53 and 35, were rescued from the rubble of another toppled two-storey building earlier on Saturday.

In all, around 100 people have been rescued since the earthquake, environment and urban planning minister Murat Kurum said.

It is not clear how many more people are trapped under flattened buildings.

Some 5,000 rescue personnel are working on the ground, Mr Kurum added.

At least 26 people were killed in Izmir, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted. Among them was an elderly woman who drowned.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said 831 were injured in Izmir and three other provinces. The health minister said 25 of them were in intensive care.

Greece Earthquake
Locals sit around a fire in the village of Kokkari on the island of Samos after the earthquake (Michael Svarnias/AP)

At least 19 people were injured on the island, with two, including a 14-year-old, being airlifted to Athens and seven taken to a hospital on Samos, health authorities said.

The small tsunami that hit the Turkish coast also affected Samos, with seawater flooding streets in the main harbour town of Vathi. Authorities warned people to stay away from the coast and from potentially damaged buildings.

The earthquake, which the Istanbul-based Kandilli Institute said had a magnitude of 6.9, was centred in the Aegean north-east of Samos. AFAD said it measured 6.6 and hit at a depth of some 10 miles (16km).

It was felt across the eastern Greek islands and as far away as Athens and in Bulgaria.

In Turkey, it shook the regions of Aegean and Marmara, including Istanbul. Istanbul’s governor said there were no reports of damage in the city, Turkey’s largest.

Turkey is crossed by fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 18,000 people in north-western Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece as well.

Turkey Earthquake
Rescue workers search the debris of collapsed buildings in Izmir for survivors of the 6.9 earthquake (IHA/AP)

Many people spent the night out in the streets, too frightened to return to their homes, even if they sustained no damage, the DHA news agency reported.

In a show of solidarity rare in recent months of tense bilateral relations, Greek and Turkish government officials issued mutual messages of solidarity while the leaders of Greece and Turkey held a telephone conversation.

“I thank President Erdogan for his positive response to my call,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday before travelling to Samos.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have been particularly tense, with warships from both facing off in the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights.

The ongoing tension has led to fears of open conflict between the two neighbours and nominal Nato allies.

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