At least 26 people were killed in Turkey and two in Greece when a major earthquake in the Aegean Sea shook parts of both countries Friday, leveling structures in the western Turkish province of Izmir and severely damaging several residential buildings.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, speaking from Istanbul on Friday evening, said that another 438 people had been injured in his country. Rescue efforts were still under way in 17 buildings in Izmir late Friday.
Murat Kurum, the Turkish environment minister, said in televised remarks that there were reports of people trapped under debris, many of them in the Bayrakli neighborhood of Izmir, a province with a population of more than 4 million.
The earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was centered off Samos, a Greek island near Turkey’s coast, according to Turkey’s disaster management agency.
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, spilled out on the streets, where survivors huddled in tears, many too shocked to speak.
Aerial footage showed entire city blocks turned to rubble.
“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.
The scenes of devastation suggested the toll could rise.
The Greek civil protection agency told Samos residents in a text message to “stay out in the open and away from buildings”.
Greece and Turkey are situated in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones. The two neighbours also suffer from historically poor relations despite both being members of the Nato military alliance.
But the quake saw a spurt of what pundits immediately termed “earthquake diplomacy”, with calls exchanged by their foreign ministers and then, hours later, the Greek prime minister and Erdogan.
“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” Mitsotakis said on Twitter.
“Thank you, prime minister,” Erdogan tweeted in reply. “That two neighbours show solidarity in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life.”
In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey’s northwest, killing more than 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul. In Greece, the last deadly quake killed two people on the island of Kos, near Samos, in July 2017.