In Bayrakli, Izmir, rescue teams with specially trained dogs were trying to make their way through contorted beams and concrete blocks that remained from a seven-story apartment building, sometimes demanding silence. locate any survivors, according to an AFP correspondent.
The quake, which was rated at 7 degrees on the Richter scale by the USGS Institute of Geophysics, took place on Friday, shortly before 12.00 GMT (14.00, Romanian time), in the Aegean Sea, southwest of the third largest city in Turkey and close to the Greek island of Samos.
The quake was so severe that it was felt as far as Istanbul and Athens and caused a “minitsunami” that flooded the streets of Seferihisar, a Turkish city near the epicenter, and swept the coast of Samos.
Gökhan Kan, a 32-year-old delivery man, was on a motorcycle when the quake struck. “I was terrified, but for my wife and son (…). I said to myself, “It will never end.” I have the impression that it lasted ten minutes, “he said.
In Turkey, 24 people died and another 804 were injured, according to the Government’s Disaster Management Agency (AFAD).
In Greece, two teenagers died on the island of Samos, following the collapse of a wall, according to public television ERT. It is about “young men” aged 15 and 17, who died at Vathy, the port on the island of Samos. According to the radio station Skai, they were returning home from school at the time of the drama. Nine other people were injured and property was damaged.
But the densely populated Turkish Aegean coast was hardest hit. Rescuers embarked on a race against the clock to save survivors from the rubble.
According to AFAD, 17 buildings collapsed or were severely damaged.
At Bayrakli, rescuers lifted sections of walls with cranes and removed debris in a continuous noise of picamar.
After they managed to contact a girl trapped in the rubble by phone, they were trying to get directions that would allow them to find her and at the same time calm her down, according to images broadcast by the public TRT station.
“Don’t worry, we’re here! I will turn off to save the battery (phone). Decrease the brightness of the screen and stay calm “, advised a relative, supervised by a rescuer.
Relatives of missing persons were waiting near the rubble, hoping for good news.
The municipality set up tents in a small park nearby to harass the victims. Mosques also opened their doors to receive survivors.
Several hospitals in Izmir, blocked due to the covid-19 pandemic, have transferred patients to other institutions in order to receive the victims of the earthquake.
The quake affected Istanbul, the country’s economic capital, but no damage was reported.
Ankara and Athens put aside diplomatic tensions and pledged to help each other in case of need, in a telephone conversation between Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“Right now, our peoples need a common front, regardless of our differences,” Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.
“The fact that the two neighbors are in solidarity during this difficult period has more value in a lot of things,” Erdogan replied on the social network.
This call for solidarity recalls Greece’s help to Turkey after a bloody earthquake in 1999, a gesture that allowed a “warming” of relations between the two countries in crisis at the time. Experts at the time evoked “earthquake diplomacy.”
France joined and offered assistance to Athens and Ankara on Friday, as it is in crisis with Turkey on numerous diplomatic and geopolitical issues.
Turkey and Greece are in the most active seismic zone in the world.
In 1999, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake shook northwestern Turkey, killing more than 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul.
In January, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake killed about 40 people in the eastern province of Elazig.
In Greece, the last bloody earthquake, of magnitude 6.7, took place on the island of Kos, near Samos, in the Dodecanese archipelago, in the Aegean Sea, in July 2017, resulting in two deaths.