26 Killed, Buildings Collapse As Earthquake Rocks Turkey, Greece

26 Killed, Buildings Collapse As Earthquake Rocks Turkey, Greece

Rescuers dug through heavy blocks of concrete with their bare hands Saturday in a desperate search for survivors from a powerful earthquake that levelled buildings across Greece and Turkey, killing at least 26 people.

The quake struck late Friday afternoon, causing a mini-tsunami on the Aegean island of Samos and a sea surge that turned streets into rushing rivers in a town on Turkey’s west coast.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.0 magnitude tremor hit 14 kilometres (nine miles) off the Greek town of Karlovasi on Samos.

Felt in both Istanbul and Athens, it also created a diplomatic opening for the two historic rivals, with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis placing a rare call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences and support.

Much of the damage occurred in and around Turkey’s Aegean resort city of Izmir, which has three million residents and is filled with high-rise apartment blocks.

Parts of entire apartments, including toys, pillows and shattered appliances, spilt out on the streets, where survivors huddled in tears, many too shocked to speak.

Aerial footage showed entire city blocks turned to rubble.

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“I thought: Is it going to end? It felt like 10 minutes like it was never going to end,” said Gokhan Kan, a 32-year-old courier.

“I was terrified not for myself in that moment but for my family, my wife and four-year-old son.”

Izmir’s mayor Tunc Soyer told CNN Turk that 20 buildings had collapsed, with officials focusing their rescue efforts on 17 of them.

Turkey’s disaster relief agency reported 24 deaths and 800 injuries, while in Greece two teenagers died on their way home from school on Samos when a wall collapsed.

The scenes of devastation suggested the toll could rise.

One Izmir hospital rolled some of its patients — still strapped into their beds and hooked up to drips — out on the street as a precaution.

Turkey’s religious affairs directorate opened its mosques to help shelter some of those left homeless by the disaster. (AFP)

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