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Death toll climbs to 28 in quake that hit Turkey and Greece

Over 800 people injured as rescue teams search for survivors in rubble of buildings that collapsed in Turkish city of Izmir; Israel has offered to assist in rescue efforts

Members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, October 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, October 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Rescue teams on Saturday plowed through concrete blocks and the 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 28 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 rescuers lifted teenager Inci Okan out of the rubble of a devastated eight-floor apartment block in Izmir’s Bayrakli district. Her dog, Fistik, was also rescued, Sozcu newspaper reported. Friends and relatives waited outside the building for news of loved ones still trapped inside, including employees of a dental clinic that was located on the ground floor.

In another collapsed building, rescuers made contact with a 38-year-old woman and her four children — aged 3, 7 and 10-year old twins — and were working to clear a corridor to bring them out, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Two other women, aged 53 and 35, were brought out from the rubble of another toppled two-story building earlier on Saturday.

A local resident, staying outdoors for fear of aftershocks, takes.a moment to relax inside a coffee shop, as members of rescue services searching for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building are reflected in the window, in Izmir, Turkey, October 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

In all, around 100 people have been rescued since the earthquake, Murat Kurum, the environment and urban planning minister, told reporters. It was not clear how many more people were trapped under buildings that were leveled.

Some 5,000 rescue personnel were working on the ground, Kurum said.

At least 26 people were killed in Izmir, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted. Among them was an elderly woman who drowned.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said 831 were injured in Izmir and three other provinces. The health minister said 25 of them were in intensive care.

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.

Seawater covers floods a square after an earthquake at the port of Vathi on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, Greece, October 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Svarnias)

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 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece as well.

Members of rescue services search for survivors in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir, Turkey, October 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

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.

Israel offered on Friday to immediately send an Israel Defense Forces search and rescue team to Turkey to assist in the rescue operations.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF’s Home Front Command to prepare to send a team and assistance to Turkey, the defense ministry said.

IDF representatives spoke with Turkey’s military attache in Israel, telling him that Israel was ready to immediately dispatch a search and rescue team to the area, and also set up a field hospital to treat the wounded.

It was not immediately clear if Turkey had accepted.

Israel’s Magen David Adom also reached out to the Red Crescent in Turkey and the Red Cross in Greece offering assistance, the group said.

Israel has sent rescue missions to Turkey in the past, but Jerusalem’s once-close relations with Ankara have deteriorated in recent years amid tensions with Erdogan.

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