AT LEAST four people have been killed and 120 injured as a powerful earthquake destroyed buildings in Turkey and triggered a tsunami that swept through coastal areas.
Horrifying pictures and video show buildings collapsing and survivors desperately searching through rubble after the 7.0-magnitude tremor struck.
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At least 20 buildings in Izmir, a Turkish city with population of 4.4million, are said to have collapsed, Mayor Tunc Soyer told CNN Turk.
He said: “There may be loss of life.”
Turkey’s health minister confirmed at least four people have been confirmed dead and 120 people have been injured.
Rescue efforts are already under way as scores of people are feared dead – but there are no official figures on victims.
Pictures and video posted on social media show large clouds of dust rising over the city following the earthquake.
Other shocking images show surging sea water in Izmir province flowing into streets, overwhelming cars and sweeping away furniture.
People are seen running for their lives after as the apparent tsunami breached sea defences following the earthquake.
The US Geological Survey confirmed the enormous tremor was felt 190 miles away in Athens and some 200 miles away in Istanbul.
The quake was also felt across the eastern Greek islands, such as Mykonos and Kos, and tsunami warnings were issued to many beachgoers.
Greek media said the residents of Samos and other islands fled their homes, while some rockfalls were reported.
Seismologist Efthymios Lekkas told Greek state television ERT that it was still too early to say whether this was the main earthquake.
“It was a very big earthquake, it’s difficult to have a bigger one,” said Lekkas.
Some two million foreign tourists visit Izmir every year, according to data from the Aegean Touristic Enterprises and Accommodation Union.
Turkish environment and urban planning minister, Murat Kurum, said people were trapped under the wreckage in Izmir.
Specialist search and rescue teams rushed to the city to help in the desperate hunt for survivors buried alive in the rubble.
Witness Teoman Cüneyt Acar told Haberturk: “I was in a grocery store in Gaziemir during the earthquake.
“I saw that all my belongings started to fall. My mother was caught in the house. I saw my mother at the street door and everyone was outside.
“I entered the house during the aftershocks and I saw that there were cracks in the columns.
“According to him, some old buildings are in ruins. The shaking lasted 40-45 seconds.”
Witnesses said people flooded onto the streets in the popular tourist city after the quake struck.
Turkish officials and broadcasters called on people to stay off the roads so emergency vehicles can move quickly to the disaster zone.
A magnitude 7.6 tremor previously struck the city in 1999 killing 17,000 people.
The quake struck at around 11.50am GMT and was felt along Turkey’s Aegean coast and the northwestern Marmara region.
Turkeys Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said the earthquake was centered in the Aegean Sea at a depth of 10.3 miles.
The earthquake is an event that is evolving, Lekkas said, adding that some damage had been reported in parts of Samos.
A tsunami warning was issued, with residents of the Samos area told to stay away from the coastline.
It read: “Stay away from the coast. Danger from high waves due to earthquake.”
Water rose above the dock in the main harbor of Samos and flooded the street.
The regional governor of the Samos region, Yiannis Stamoulis, said no injuries had been reported on the island.
Residents have also been told to stay away from buildings, as aftershocks continued to rattle the area.
The Deputy Mayor of Eastern Samos said to ANT1 that buildings have fallen and that there are reports of large waves.
One of the fallen buildings on the island is the church of Panagia Theotokou in Karlovasi.
The chief of Samos hospital workers union told: The Greek City Times: “A few minutes ago we experienced a very big earthquake similar to that Samos has been experiencing for many years.
“People are panicking. They have gone out in the squares, in the streets.”
He added: “It was an earthquake that lasted several minutes. Very strong.”
More to follow…
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