A strong earthquake struck the Aegean Sea on Friday and inflicted damage in both Greece and Turkey, where buildings collapsed killing at least four people with many others trapped under the rubble.
Turkey’s health minister Fahrettin Koca said at least 120 were people injured in the coastal province of Izmir.
People flooded onto the streets in the Turkish city of Izmir after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit, witnesses said. The wreckage of multiple-story buildings in the city’s centre could be seen with people climbing out to escape. Smoke rose into the sky in several areas.
Izmir Mayor Tunc Soyer told CNN Turk about 20 buildings collapsed. The city is the third-largest in Turkey with about 4,5 million residents. Turkey’s interior minister tweeted six buildings in Izmir were destroyed.
Ilke Cide, a doctoral student who was in Izmir’s Guzelbahce region at the time of the earthquake, said he went inland after waters rose after the earthquake.
“I am very used to earthquakes … so I didn’t take it very seriously at first but this time it was really scary,” he said, adding the earthquake lasted for at least 25 seconds.
The earthquake triggered a small-scale tsunami in Seferihisar district, Huseyin Alan, head of Turkey’s Chamber of Geological Engineers, told state news agency TRT, warning people to stay away from buildings.
Footage on social media showed debris including refrigerators, chairs, and tables floating through streets on the deluge. TRT Haber showed cars being dragged by the water and piled on top of each other.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said it was a magnitude 6.6 earthquake, while the US Geological Survey said it was 7.0. It struck at about 11:50 GMT and was felt along Turkey’s Aegean coast and the northwestern Marmara region.
The US Geological Survey said the depth was 10 kilometres (six miles) and the epicentre was 33.5km (20.8 miles) off Turkey’s coast.
Ali Yerlikaya, governor of Istanbul where the earthquake was also felt, said there were no reports of damage there.
Crisscrossed by major fault lines, Turkey is among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck Izmit, a city southeast of Istanbul. In 2011, an earthquake in the eastern city of Van killed more than 500.
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece pledged on Friday to help each other in rescue and recovery efforts. The two countries have been locked in a dispute over eastern Mediterranean energy rights.
“Greek Foreign Minister [Nikos] Dendias called our minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to wish him the best. Both ministers stressed they were ready to help each other in case of need,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.
The earthquake was also felt across the eastern Greek islands and even in the Greek capital, Athens.
“We have had many earthquakes in the past, however, I have never felt one that has lasted this long,” Anna Makris, a school counselling coordinator in Athens, told Al Jazeera.
“There is a real sense of panic and now we are worried about aftershocks,” Makris added.
Greek media said residents of Samos and other islands fled their homes, while some rockfalls were reported.
The director of the hospital in Samos said four people were treated there for light injuries. Both countries reported aftershocks.
Residents of Samos, an island with a population of about 45,000, were urged to stay away from coastal areas, Eftyhmios Lekkas, head of Greece’s organisation for anti-seismic planning, told Greece’s Skai TV.
“It was a very big earthquake, it’s difficult to have a bigger one,” said Lekkas.
Public television ERT reported the earthquake caused a mini-tsunami on Samos and a number of buildings were damaged. It caused the walls of several homes to collapse and triggered flooding in the port.
A resident of the Greek island Ikaria, right next to Samos, told Al Jazeera she ran out of her house after “the earth started moving”.
“Some people screamed and started crying while others were trying to gather everyone to a safe location in fear that buildings would collapse,” she said, asking not to be named. “There are quite a few damaged buildings and there were landslides on different parts of the island.”