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Rescuers Seek Survivors as Aegean Earthquake Toll Rises

Taylan Bilgic, Cagan Koc and Selcan Hacaoglu
·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Rescue workers raced to find survivors in collapsed buildings in Turkey’s Aegean port city of Izmir following a powerful earthquake that killed at least 39 people.

Aftershocks continued following Friday’s 6.9-magnitude tremor, with more than 5,000 people joining rescue efforts Saturday to focus on eight razed buildings. Visiting the city, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at least 37 people were killed while 885 were injured. Two other people were killed on a Greek island near the Turkish coastline.

Oguz Demirkapi was among the survivors plucked from a seven-story apartment block that crumbled in Izmir, and said there could be as many as two dozen people still under the rubble of his building.

“I formed a life triangle between the wall and a TV stand,” he said by phone on Saturday. “It was hard to breathe initially, but then a relative called and I was able to talk. Crews took me out about half an hour later,” said Demirkapi, a 48-year-old executive at a mobile applications company.

The epicenter of the quake, given a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey, was 17 kilometers (10 miles) off the coastal town of Seferihisar at more than 10 kilometers below the seabed, officials said. Tremors were felt as far away as the commercial capital, Istanbul.

The governor of Izmir described a “partial tsunami” and Greek authorities issued a tsunami warning for the island of Samos after the earthquake, state-run ERT said.

“Bridges have collapsed and we were unable to enter the town,” Hasim Kavuklu, a hotel worker in the town of Sigacik, told Bloomberg by phone. “The sea first ebbed and then came back.”

Some vessels capsized in the marina at Seferihisar, Kavuklu said, adding there were concerns for fishing boats out at sea. One person using a wheelchair drowned in the area as the waters rose, BBC Turkish reported.

“There shouldn’t be such destruction in this kind of an earthquake,” Birgun newspaper cited disaster recovery expert Kubilay Kaptan as saying. “Buildings in Turkey should be resistant to tremors of magnitude 7, at the very least.”

People in Samos received a text message on their mobile phones to evacuate coastal areas. One high-school student on the island was killed and another later died from injuries after a wall collapsed on them, ERT said.

‘Stand Together’

Greek Prime Minster Kyriakos Mitsotakis called Erdogan to offer his condolences for the “tragic loss of life from the earthquake that struck both our countries,” the Greek premier said in a Twitter post. “Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together.”

The two countries have for weeks been involved in heated disputes over Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and the divided island of Cyprus.

France is in “full solidarity with the Greek and Turkish populations,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said via Twitter.

The lira weakened as much as 1.1% to a record low of 8.3849 per dollar on Friday. Refiners Tupras and Socar said their operations at the Aliaga peninsula, about 120 kilometers north of the epicenter, weren’t impacted. Izmir-based cement makers Baticim Bati Anadolu Cimento Sanayii AS and Cimentas Izmir Cimento Fabrikalari Turk AS surged in Istanbul trading, while the benchmark stock index slumped 1.3%, closing the week down 6.6%.

Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active seismic zones and is crossed by numerous fault lines. In 1999, two earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7 struck northwestern Turkey, killing about 18,000 people.

(Updates with killed and wounded in first and second paragraphs.)

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