Turkey, earthquake in İzmir

79 dead and 962 injured by the earthquake in İzmir, Turkey

The earthquake, which could be felt in Istanbul and Greece and generated a tsunami, caused the collapse of 20 buildings in İzmir.

The violent earthquake that struck the İzmir province on the west coast of Turkey on Friday, has caused 79 deaths and 962 injuries so far, of which more than 700 have already been discharged from hospital, according to the latest data provided by the Agency for Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD), as efforts continue to rescue possible survivors from the rubble of at least a dozen collapsed buildings in the country’s third-largest city.

The earthquake, which reached a magnitude of 6.6 degrees on the Richter scale – although the United States Geological Observatory raised it to 7 degrees – occurred in the sea at a depth of 16.5 km just north of the Greek island of Samos, off the coast of the Turkish district of Seferihisar, but could be felt throughout western Turkey and even as far North as Istanbul.

The governor of İzmir province, Yavuz Selim Köşger, confirmed to the media on Friday that several buildings had completely collapsed and that dozens of people had been rescued from the ruins. Köşger also confirmed that one of the people killed by the earthquake drowned, sinde the earthquake generated a small tsunami that was especially strong in the coastal town of Sığacık, located in the Seferihisar district.

The powerful tremor caused panic among the population, who took to the streets, moving away from buildings, despite the fact that Turkey is used to frequent small earthquakes. Minutes after the main earthquake struck, videos posted on social media showed volunteers desperately trying to clear debris to reach people asking for help.

Experts warn of more earthquakes

Authorities warned residents in both İzmir and other neighboring provinces – where minor damage was also caused by the earthquake – to stay away from their homes if they notice cracks or structural damage to the building due to aftershocks, of which they have registered more than 850 since Friday, 40 of them with an intensity between 4 and 5 degrees.

Professor Haluk Özener, head of Istanbul’s Kandilli Seismological Observatory, told during a news conference on Friday that the main 6.6-magnitude earthquake had lasted 15 seconds and caused a 40-kilometer-long fault to rupture.

The earthquake could also be felt in several Greek islands in the Aegean Sea and even in Athens. At least two children died on the island of Samos after a wall collapsed on them. Greek media confirmed that there was significant damage to several buildings on this island, especially the church of Panagia Theotokou, in the town of Karlovasia. The water also rose in level and overflowed the port in Samos, flooding several streets.

Turkish President promises new homes for those affected

In remarks made on Saturday, the Minister of Environment and Urban Planning Murat Kurum explained that there are currently some 5,000 members of rescue groups searching for survivors and victims among the rubble of collapsed buildings in the city of İzmir, where 17 buildings collapsed, adding that more than 100 people have been rescued alive.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, who has travelled to the place of the tragedy, announced for his part that once the rescue efforts are completed and the remains are removed, the State will build new houses for those who have lost their homes, while also pointing out that an emergency fund of 24 million liras – about 2 million euros – had been allocated to the region. While the new houses are being built, those affected will receive help to pay rent and compensation for material losses suffered.

There are multiple fault lines running through this region of the Aegean; the last major earthquake in İzmir occurred in October 2005: at that time, three earthquakes of between 5.7 and 5.9 degrees with an epicentre in Seferihisar shook the region for four days without causing serious damage, although two people died due to heart attacks.