IZMIR, Turkey – Rescue workers rescued a 70-year-old man from a collapsed building in western Turkey on Sunday, about 34 hours after a powerful earthquake in the Aegean Sea, killing at least 57 people and injuring more than 900.
It was the latest series of notable bailouts following the Friday afternoon earthquake in the Aegean northeast of the Greek island of Samos. Search and rescue teams worked in nine overturned or damaged buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, and appeared to find more bodies than survivors on Sunday.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca raised the death toll in Izmir to 55 on Sunday. Two teenagers were killed in Samos on Friday and at least 19 others were injured.
Ahmet Citim, 70, was pulled from the rubble in the middle of the night and taken to hospital. Koca tweeted that Citim said, “I’ve never lost hope.” The minister visited the survivor and said he was fine.
The quake triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district of Izmir, drowning an elderly woman. The tremors could be felt all over western Turkey, including Istanbul and the Greek capital Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed. According to the Turkish Disaster Agency, almost 900 people were injured in Turkey alone.
Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said 26 heavily damaged buildings would be demolished.
“It’s not the earthquake that kills, it’s buildings,” he added, repeating a common slogan.
There was some debate about the magnitude of the earthquake. The US Geological Survey rated it 7.0, the Istanbul Kandilli Institute 6.9 and the Turkish Presidency for Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD) 6.6.
According to AFAD, more than 5,700 workers have been activated for rescue work and hundreds of others for food distribution, emergency aid and the control of building damage.
Turkey has fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed around 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are common in Greece too.
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In a rare unity demonstration amid months of tense relationships with energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean, Greek and Turkish government officials gave mutual solidarity messages about the quake charge.
The quake occurred when Turkey was already struggling with an economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic. So far, more than 10,000 people have died from the virus in Turkey and some experts have accused the government of hiding the real effects of the virus based on the way cases are counted.