ISTANBUL – A powerful earthquake in the Aegean Sea rocked coastal areas of Greece and Turkey on Friday, killing at least 22 people and leaving more than 800 others injured.
The strongest impact of the temblor was in the Turkish city of Izmir, where at least 20 people perished and rescue teams were continuing to search 17 buildings that suffered severe damage, Turkey’s AFAD emergency management agency said.
“I was in a restaurant. We were all panicked, we went running out and the building collapsed before my eyes,” Özgür Aktepe, a businessman in Izmir, told EFE just hours after the quake.
Nearly two-dozen of the 786 injured people in Izmir were in serious condition, according to bulletins from the hospitals in Turkey’s third-largest city.
While Turkish officials rated the earthquake as magnitude-6.8, the United States Geological Survey estimated the strength at magnitude-7.0.
With its epicenter between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Samos at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles), the quake, which occurred at 1151 GMT, was felt in Athens and Istanbul and as far away as Bulgaria.
Turkey’s NTV television reported that one of the dead was a woman who drowned in the small created by the temblor.
On Samos, two teenagers were killed under a collapsing wall on their way home from school and 19 other people were hurt, Greek authorities said.
Two of those hurt on the island were to be airlifted to Athens.
More than 100 people, including residents, worked into the night searching an eight-story building in Izmir that was among a dozen structures to collapse as a result of the quake.
“We don’t know how many people there are inside, we only know that we’re hearing noises or sounds of someone,” a doctor at the scene told EFE.
By midnight Friday, four people had been pulled alive from the rubble.
Many Izmir residents decided to sleep outdoors, though some bedded down in the tents installed by AFAD at various points in the city.
“We will stand by the people of Izmir with all the means of our state,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted shortly after the earthquake struck.
Despite recent heightened tensions between Greece and Turkey, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis took the opportunity to reach out to the Turkish leadership.
“I just called President Erdogan to offer my condolences for the tragic loss of life from the earthquake that struck both our countries,” the premier wrote on Twitter. “Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together.”