ISTANBUL – Greek and Turkish rescue efforts were continuing to find survivors late Friday after a powerful earthquake shook the Aegean Sea.
Turkey’s third-largest city, Izmir, and a nearby Greek island were hit hard by the powerful earthquake, which killed more than dozen people and injured hundreds more.
Videos showed buildings violently shaking and people running into the streets in panic in Izmir, a city of 4 million.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 with an epicenter 13 kilometers north-northeast of Samos and 32 kilometers off the coast of Turkey.
The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 7.0. It is common for preliminary magnitudes to differ in the early hours and days after a quake.
The quake triggered a surge of water into Izmir’s Seferihisar district.
“There seems to be a small tsunami,” Seferihisar Mayor Ismail Yetiskin told Turkish broadcaster NTV.
Footage shared on social media showed refrigerators, chairs and tables floating through streets on the deluge.
On the nearby Greek Island of Samos, a teenage boy and girl were found dead in an area where a wall had collapsed.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said 17 people were killed. Izmir Mayor TuncSoyer said about 20 buildings had collapsed.
Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan said all means necessary would be used to assist rescue efforts.
“The rescue work is continuing currently in 17 buildings,” Erdogan said. “Our state, ministers, all our institutions took immediate action in order to rescue our citizens who are under the rubble.”
Soldiers were deployed to assist rescue efforts, while specialized emergency teams were traveling to Izmir from across the country.
Rescue teams assisted by local people were digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings to try to find survivors. Dozens of aftershocks were hindering the efforts.
Several survivors have been rescued from the rubble so far, authorities said.
Many of Izmir’s inhabitants, fearing for their safety, were spending the night outside, in parks and open land or in their cars. Soup kitchens were set up to feed those in need.
Turkey, no stranger to powerful earthquakes, has developed a large pool of expertise in rescue operations.
The provincial city of Izmit, close to Istanbul, was devastated by a powerful earthquake in 1999 that killed at least 17,000 people. Many of those killed died in collapsed buildings.
Since the 1999 quake, stringent building regulations have been introduced, along with a program of strengthening old structures.
But the Izmir quake, which resulted in similar collapses of buildings while other surrounding structures remained intact, has again put a spotlight on Turkish building construction standards.
“The higher the poverty, the closer the earthquake is to you,” Turkish seismology professor Ahmet Ercan said. “You will never hear of a celebrity or a rich person being taken out of the rubble.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis offered his condolences to Erdogan. The quake came amid high tensions between the neighbors over disputes about territorial waters, but Mitsotakis tweeted, “Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together.”
Erdogan thanked Mitsotakis and offered assistance: “We are standing with Greece if there is anything we can do for them.”
Source: Voice of America