Death Toll Reaches 26 in Quake That Hit Turkey, Greek Island

Izmir, Turkey (AP) — Rescue teams on Saturday plowed through concrete blocks and debris of eight collapsed buildings in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos, killing at least 26 people. More than 800 others were injured.

The quake hit Friday afternoon, toppling buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, and triggering a small tsunami in the district of Seferihisar and on Samos. The quake was followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

Early on Saturday, onlookers cheered as rescued lifted teenager Inci Okan out of the rubble of a devastated eight-floor apartment block. Friends and relatives waited outside the building for news of loved ones still trapped inside, including employees of a dentist’s surgery that was located on the ground floor.

Two other women, aged 53 and 35, were rescued from another collapsed two-story building.

At least 24 people were killed in Izmir, including an elderly woman who drowned, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD.

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.

The small tsunami that hit the Turkish coast also affected Samos, with seawater flooding streets in the main harbor 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 kilometers (10 miles).

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. Istanbul’s governor said there were no reports of damage in the city, Turkey’s largest.

Turkey is crossed by fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 87,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece too.

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, the DHA news agency reported.

More than 3,000 rescue personnel were sent to Izmir, as well as relief supplies. The Turkish Red Crescent set up kitchens.

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

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 NATO allies.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

[Editor notes: Eds: UPDATES: Updates with details. Corrects spelling in the first paragraph. Minor edits. Adds background on earthquakes. With AP Photos.]

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