Turkey earthquake death toll rises to 60

Mehmet Guzel and Zeynep Bilginsoy
·2-min read

Rescue workers have extricated a 70-year-old man from a collapsed building in western Turkey, some 34 hours after a strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea struck Turkey and Greece, killing at least 60 people and injuring more than 900.

It was the latest series of remarkable rescues after the Friday afternoon earthquake, which was centred in the Aegean northeast of the Greek island of Samos.

Search-and-rescue teams were working on Sunday in nine toppled or damaged buildings in Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city, but appeared to be finding more bodies than survivors..

There was some debate over the magnitude of the earthquake. The US Geological Survey rated it 7.0, while the 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 of the rubble in the middle of the night and was hospitalised. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that Citim said: "I never lost 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 920 people were injured in Turkey alone..

Turkey's justice minister said prosecutors had begun investigating several collapsed buildings and promised legal repercussions if experts identified neglect.

AFAD said nearly 6400 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 relations over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek and Turkish government officials have 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, Turkey has more than 10,000 confirmed virus deaths but some experts have accused the government of concealing the true impact of the virus with the way it counts infections.