Strong earthquake jolts Turkey and Greece, at least 26 dead, including children

A strong earthquake overnight in the Aegean Sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Samos, killing at least 26 people and injuring over 800 amid collapsed buildings and flooding, officials said.

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The magnitude 7.0 quake struck off the country's west coast, just north of the Greek island of Samos. Source: 1 NEWS

A small tsunami struck the Seferisar district of Izmir, said Haluk Ozener, director of the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told 1 NEWS there were "no indications at this stage" that any New Zealanders in Turkey or Greece have been affected by the earthquake.

There are 73 New Zealanders registered as being in Turkey, and 13 in Greece, the spokesperson said.

At least 24 people were killed in Izmir, including an elderly woman who drowned, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD.

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.

Among the dead were the wife and two children of the secretary-general of the Turkish Medical Association’s Izmir branch, the group said.

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.

Izmir Governor Yavuz Selim Kosger said at least 70 people were rescued from wrecked buildings, with four destroyed and more than 10 collapsed.

Others suffered less severe damage, he said, but did not give an exact number.

Search-and-rescue efforts were underway in at least 17 buildings, AFAD said.

Turkish media showed rescuers pulling people from the rubble, including one survivor who was found about six hours after the quake.

Emergency teams continued digging after nightfall and cranes lifted concrete slabs from the wreckage.

The earthquake, which the Kandilli Institute said had a magnitude of 6.9, struck at 2:51 pm local time (12:51 am New Zealand time) in Turkey and was centred in the Aegean northeast of Samos.

AFAD said it measured the magnitude at 6.6.

Greek seismologist Akis Tselentis told Greek state broadcaster ERT that due to the shallow depth of its epicentre — roughly 10 kilometers — potentially powerful aftershocks could be expected for several weeks and warned that buildings could collapse in a strong aftershock.

The government and cities like Istanbul sent more than 3000 rescue personnel to Izmir, as well as relief supplies. The Turkish Red Crescent set up kitchens.

France offered assistance to both countries. The secretary of state for European affairs tweeted France’s “full solidarity with Greece and Turkey” and said “we are ready to offer the necessary aid".

In a show of solidarity rare in recent months of tense bilateral relations, Greek and Turkish government officials issued mutual messages of solidarity.

“We pray that there is no further loss of live in Turkey or Greece and we send our best wishes to all those affected on both sides of the earthquake," Turkey’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun tweeted.

"This tragedy reminds us once again how close we are despite our differences over policy. We’re ready to help if Greece needs it.”

Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, tweeted that he had phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “to offer my condolences for the tragic loss of life from the earthquake that struck both our countries. Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together”.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have been particularly tense, with warships from both facing off in the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights.

The ongoing tension has led to fears of open conflict between the two neighbours and NATO allies.