IZMIR, Turkey (AP) – Rescue workers on Sunday pulled a 70-year-old man out of a collapsed building in western Turkey, about 34 hours after a powerful earthquake in the Aegean Sea struck Turkey and Greece, killing at least 53 people and injuring more than 900.
It was the latest in a series of significant rescue operations since Friday afternoon’s earthquake, centered in the Aegean northeast of the Greek island of Samos. Search and rescue teams were working in nine buildings in the Turkish city of Izmir on Sunday as the day broke.
Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Okte raised the death toll to 51 in Izmir, the country’s third-largest city, while rescuers pulled out more bodies scattered from houses. Two teenagers were killed and at least 19 others were injured in Samos on Friday.
There was little discussion about the magnitude of the earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey rated it it..0, while Istanbul’s Kandili Institute put it at 9.9 and Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) put it at 6.6.
The epicenter was reported below the epicenter, however; no tsunami alert was issued. The quake was felt in western Turkey in the Greek capital Athens, including Istanbul. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.
Turkey’s disaster agency says about 900 people have been injured in Turkey alone.
Ahmet Sitim, 70, was pulled out of the rubble shortly after midnight on Sunday and was taken to hospital. Health Minister Fahretin Koka tweeted that he had said: “I have never lost my hope.”
Turkey has a mix of old buildings and cheap new construction with little control, which can cause serious damage and death when an earthquake strikes. The vice president said 26 badly damaged houses would be demolished.
“It’s not the earthquakes that kill but the buildings,” Octe said, repeating a common motto.
More than 5,700 personnel and hundreds of others have been mobilized for rescue work, food distribution, emergency help and building damage control, the AFAD said.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. Turkish media reported that three more people were evacuated from an apartment building on Sunday, but their whereabouts were unknown.
Dogs, cats and rabbits have also been rescued from the debris.
Turkey has been cross-crossed by faulty lines and is at risk of earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful earthquakes killed at least 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are also frequent in Greece.
Amid months of tense bilateral relations, Greek and Turkish government officials issued messages of solidarity in the wake of the quake.
The quake came because Turkey is already struggling with the economic downturn and the coronavirus epidemic. More than 10,000 people have died of the virus in Turkey so far, and some experts have accused the government of hiding the true effects of the virus in a calculated way.
Bilginsoi reported from Istanbul.
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