A team of 15 Greek special operations officers were mustered at the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa on Wednesday and set to sail to Italy to help in the search and rescue effort in the wake of a devastating earthquake that had claimed at least 120 lives in the neighboring country by last night.
“The Italians appealed for help early in the morning,” team leader Miltos Benakis was quoted by the ANA-MPA news agency as saying on Wednesday. “Two Greek earthquake evaluation experts have already departed for the neighboring country and we are also waiting for a formal invitation.”
The 6.2 Richter quake struck in the early morning hours when most people were asleep, destroying homes and roads in a cluster of towns and villages some 140 kilometers east of Rome.
With 368 people injured and an unknown number trapped under rubble, the figures for the dead and wounded were expected to rise in the wake of the predawn quake, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned.
“This is not a final toll,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.
No Greeks were reported as being among the dead and injured, the Greek Embassy in Rome said in an announcement on Wednesday.
“There are so far no Greek victims among the casualties,” the embassy said, going on to urge any Greeks living or vacationing in the area to respond to an appeal for blood donations.
In a related development, the head of the Organization of Earthquake Planning and Protection (OASP), Athens University Professor Efthymis Lekkas, categorically denied speculation that Greece could be affected by seismic activity in Italy.
“We are talking about two entirely separate seismotectonic systems,” he said.