Two schoolchildren were killed on Samos and at least 14 people lost their lives in Turkey after a powerful earthquake struck the Aegean Sea between the two countries on Friday afternoon, causing widespread damage.
The 6.7-Richter quake struck shortly before 2 p.m., its epicenter some 18 kilometers north of Samos. It was felt across Greece, including in Attica, as its epicenter was close to the surface, seismologists said. “The fault line on which it occurred runs from east to west, which explains why it was felt not only in the northern Cyclades but also Attica,” Thanassis Ganas, research director at the Geodynamic Institute, told Kathimerini.
Other seismologists, including Efthymios Lekkas, head of Greece’s Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, said it was likely yesterday’s quake was the main one. He said aftershocks are expected to measure around 6 Richter.
Commenting on the tragedy on Samos, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter: “Words are too poor to describe how one feels faced with the loss of these children. At these difficult times our thoughts are with their families and the unbearable pain being experienced on the suffering Samos.”
The children, aged 15 and 17, had been on their way home when the quake struck, loosening the wall of an old building which they were passing which collapsed upon them. A 14-year-old boy and a 63-year-old woman who sustained multiple injuries were airlifted to Athens from the island, while several more people were treated for less serious injuries.
Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Protection sent out text messages via the 112 European emergency number to residents of Samos as well as Ikaria, Kos, Chios and other nearby islands, warning them to stay away from the coastline due to the risk of a possible tsunami and away from buildings due to possible aftershocks. A second message was sent to residents of Samos, urging them to remain outdoors away from buildings.
The quake prompted Mitsotakis to call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in spite of the extremely strained ties between the two countries following a difficult summer of rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. “I just called President @RTErdogan to offer my condolences for the tragic loss of life from the earthquake that struck both our countries,” Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter. “Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” he wrote.
“Turkish President Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis exchanged wishes for a speedy recovery. President Erdogan stated Turkey stands ready to help Greece if need be,” the Turkish Presidency responded on Twitter.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu also spoke, with the latter saying, “We are ready for mutual support if needed.”
Meanwhile a Greek government delegation traveled to Samos on Friday along with first-aid workers and civil engineers who were to assess the impact of the damage caused by the quake to buildings and to the island’s infrastructure.
Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias described the situation on Samos as “extremely difficult and dangerous,” referring to the stability of several old buildings.