At Least 51 Dead in Turkey, Greek Islands Earthquake
At least 51 people have been killed and nearly 900 injured by the earthquake that toppled buildings in the Turkish city of İzmir and created sea surges on at least two Greek islands.
Rescue teams in Turkey early Sunday morning pulled a man alive from the rubble of a collapsed building. The man, identified as Ahmet Citim, survived for 33 hours under the debris of a residential building that was flattened during the earthquake.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Izmir on Saturday evening and promised the government would help victims who lost their homes with temporary housing and rent, and start construction of new buildings.
The deadly 7.0 earthquake originated from a 250-kilometer fault line off the coast of the Greek island of Samos, streaming across the Aegean Sea that divides Turkey and Greece. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.
Just hours after the quake, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis placed a rare telephone call to Turkish president to offer his condolences.
“Whatever our differences, these are times when people need to stand together,” Mitsotakis posted on Twitter.
Erdogan replied in a twin tweet: “That two neighbors show solidarity and support in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life.”
The United States has saluted the Greek-Turkish earthquake diplomacy and expressed readiness to help the two NATO countries.
“It’s great to see both countries putting their differences aside to help each other during a time of need. The United States also stands ready to assist,” said U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
France also offered assistance to the countries, extending “full solidarity to both Greece and Turkey.”
Although Greece and Turkey are both members of NATO, there are perhaps no two allied, neighboring nations whose dealings have been marked with so much conflict and mistrust. Most recently, both sides have been embroiled in a heated energy standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, bringing them to the brink of war during the summer.
The European Union and the United States have been working for months in hope of sitting both sides down to negotiate their differences, but to no avail.
It remains unclear whether the deadly earthquake can strengthen ties.