Death toll reaches 30 in quake that hit Turkey, Greek island


Three young children and their mother were rescued alive from the rubble of a collapsed building in western Turkey on Saturday, some 23 hours after a powerful earthquake in the Aegean Sea killed at least 30 people and injured more than 800 others.

The Friday afternoon quake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos registered a magnitude that Turkish authorities put at 6.6, while other seismology institutes said it measured 6.9. It toppled buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, and triggered a small tsunami in the Seferihisar district and on the Greek island. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.

At least 28 people were killed in Izmir, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted. Among them was an elderly woman who drowned in a tsunami. But rescue teams on Saturday made contact with 38-year old Seher Perincek and her four children — ages three, seven and 10-year-old twins — inside a fallen building in Izmir and cleared a corridor to bring them out.

One by one, the mother and three of her children were removed from the rubble as rescuers applauded or hugged. Efforts were still underway to rescue the remaining child, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The survivors, including 10-year-old Elzem Perincek, were moved into ambulances on stretchers. The girl was speaking and said one of her feet hurt.

“I’m fine; I was rescued because only one of my feet was pinned. That foot really hurt,” she said.

Earlier Saturday, search-and-rescue teams working on eight collapsed buildings lifted teenager Inci Okan out of the rubble of a devastated eight-floor apartment block. Her dog, Fistik, or Pistachio, was also rescued, Turkish media reported.

Inci Okan, a 16-year-old girl who was trapped in the rubble of an eight-storey apartment building, is seen shortly after being rescued in Izmir. (Reuters TV)

A video showed a female rescuer trying to calm down the 16-year-old girl under the rubble as she inserted a catheter. “I’m so scared,” the girl cried. “Can you hold my hand?”

“We are going to get out of here soon,” the rescuer, Edanur Dogan, said. “Your mother is waiting outside for you.”

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.

Rescue teams on Saturday plowed through concrete blocs and debris of eight collapsed buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake. (Darko Bandic/The Associated Press)

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

In all, about 100 people have been rescued since the earthquake, Murat Kurum, the environment and urban planning minister, told reporters. It was unclear how many more people were trapped under buildings that were levelled.

Some 5,000 rescue personnel were working on the ground, Kurum said.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said 885 people were injured in Izmir and three other provinces. The health minister said seven people were being treated in intensive care, with three of them in critical condition.

In Greece, two teenagers were killed on Samos after being struck by a collapsing wall. At least 19 people were injured on the island, with two, including a 14-year-old, being airlifted to Athens and seven hospitalized on the island, health authorities said.

Small tsunami causes flooding

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 centered in the Aegean northeast of Samos. AFAD said it measured 6.6. and hit at a depth of some 16 kilometres.

It was felt across the eastern Greek islands and as far as Athens and in Bulgaria. In Turkey, it shook the regions of Aegean and Marmara, including Istanbul.

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

Authorities warned residents in Izmir not to return to damaged buildings, saying they could collapse in strong aftershocks. Many people spent the night out in the streets, too frightened to return to their homes, even if they sustained no damage.

Men sit on the ground during rescue operations in Izmir, Turkey, on Saturday after an earthquake struck the Aegean Sea. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

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

“I thank President Erdogan for his positive response to my call,” the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday before traveling to Samos, where he visited the families of the teenagers who were killed.

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 neighbors and nominal NATO allies.

WATCH | Earthquake strikes in the Aegean Sea:

More than a dozen people were killed and hundreds were injured when a massive earthquake struck the Aegean Sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Samos. 1:44

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