Toll in Turkey, Greek island earthquake rises to 57; 70-year-old man pulled out alive from collapsed building

Over 900 people in Turkey have been injured in the Friday afternoon earthquake, which was centered in the Aegean northeast of the Greek island of Samos

The Associated Press November 01, 2020 17:04:09 IST
Toll in Turkey, Greek island earthquake rises to 57; 70-year-old man pulled out alive from collapsed building

Members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey following a massive earthquake on Friday. AP

Izmir: Rescue workers extricated a 70-year-old man from a collapsed building in western Turkey on Sunday, some 34 hours after a strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea struck Turkey and Greece, killing at least 53 people and injuring more than 900.

It was the latest series of remarkable rescues after the Friday afternoon earthquake, which was centered in the Aegean northeast of the Greek island of Samos. Search-and-rescue teams were working in nine toppled or damaged buildings in Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city, but appeared to be finding more bodies Sunday than survivors.

Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay raised the toll in Izmir, the country's third-largest city, to 55 as rescuers pulled more bodies out of toppled buildings. Two teenagers were killed on Friday on Samos and at least 19 others were injured.

There was some debate over the magnitude of the earthquake. The US Geological Survey rated it 7.0, while Istanbul's Kandilli Institute put it at 6.9 and Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said it measured 6.6.

Ahmet Citim, 70, was pulled out from the rubble shortly after Sunday midnight and was hospitalized. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that he said: "I never lost my hope."

The minister visited the survivor and said he was doing well.

The quake triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district of Izmir, drowning one elderly woman. The tremors were felt across western Turkey, including in Istanbul, as well as in the Greek capital of Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed. Turkey’s disaster agency said nearly 900 people were injured in Turkey alone.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said 26 badly damaged buildings would be demolished.

“It’s not the earthquake that kills but buildings,” he added, repeating a common slogan.

Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal construction, which can lead to serious damage and deaths when earthquakes hit. Regulations have been tightened in light of earthquakes to strengthen or demolish buildings and urban renewal is underway in Turkish cities but it is not happening fast enough.

Two destroyed apartment buildings where much of the rescues are taking place had received reports of “decay” in 2012 and 2018, according to the municipal agency in charge of such certificates. A report on Turkish media including the Hurriyet newspaper said one of the buildings built in 1993 was at risk of earthquake damage because of low-quality concrete and the lack of reinforcements. However, the building continued to be occupied.

AFAD said more than 5,700 personnel had been activated for rescue work and hundreds of others for food distribution, emergency help, and building damage control.

Turkey is criss-crossed by fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece as well.

In a rare show of unity amid months of tense bilateral relations, Greek and Turkish government officials issued mutual messages of solidarity over the quake toll.

The quake occurred as Turkey was already struggling with an economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic. So far, more than 10,000 people with the virus have died in Turkey, and some experts have accused the government of concealing the true impact of the virus with the way it counts cases.

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