ATHENS, July 21: A powerful earthquake shook the Greek resort island of Kos overnight, damaging older buildings and the main port, killing at least two people and causing more than 120 injuries.
The 6.5-magnitude quake about 1:30 a.m. Friday rattled other islands and Turkey’s Aegean coast as well, but Kos was nearest to the epicenter and appeared to be the worst-hit, with all of the deaths and injuries reported there. Fallen bricks and other debris coated many streets, and the island’s seafront road and parts of the main town were flooded by a small tsunami.
Giorgos Hadjimarkos, regional governor, said four or five of the injuries were “worrying” and damaged buildings were being inspected, but the “main priority at the moment is saving lives.” The Kos hospital said at least 20 of the injured had broken bones.
A wall collapsed on a building dating to the 1930s and it crushed people who were at the bar in the building’s lower level, according to Kos Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis. “There are not many old buildings left on Kos. Nearly all the structures on the island have been built under the new codes to withstand earthquakes,” the mayor said.
Kos’s “old town” area, full of bars and other nighttime entertainment, was littered with broken stone in the streets. Hotels had shattered glass and other damage, leaving hundreds of tourists to spend the rest of the night outdoors, trying to sleep on beach loungers with blankets provided by staff.
“The instant reaction was to get ourselves out of the room,” said Christopher Hackland of Edinburgh, Scotland, who is a scuba instructor on Kos. “There was banging. There was shaking. The light was swinging, banging on the ceiling, crockery falling out of the cupboards, and pans …
“There was a lot of screaming and crying and hysterics coming from the hotel,” he said, referring to the hotel next to his apartment building. “It felt like being at a theme park with one of the illusions, an optical illusion where you feel like you’re upside down.”
Authorities had warned of a localized tsunami, and witnesses described a “swelling” of the sea after the earthquake. A seafront road and parts of the island’s main town were flooded, and the rising seawater even pushed a boat onto the main road and caused several cars to slam into each other. Ferry service was canceled until daylight because Kos’s main port was damaged, and at least one ferry en route to the port was unable to dock.
Other buildings damaged included an old mosque where a minaret collapsed and a 14th-century fortress at the entrance to the main port. Minor damage — cracks in buildings, smashed windows and trashed shops — appeared widespread.
Rescuers were checking for trapped people inside houses after the quake struck in the middle of the night and were heading to outlying villages to check for damage.
Greek officials said the quake was 6.5-magnitude and the numerous aftershocks were weaker but still could put at risk the buildings that were already damaged. The epicenter was 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Bodrum, Turkey, and 10 miles (16 kilometers) east-northeast of Kos with a depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers).
In Turkey, the ensuing panic caused minor injuries, according to Esengul Civelek, governor of Mugla province.
In Bitez, a resort town about 6 kilometers (4 miles) west of Bodrum, the quake sent frightened residents running into the streets.
Hotel guests briefly returned to their rooms to pick up their belongings but chose to spend the rest of the night outside, with some using sheets and cushions borrowed from nearby lounge chairs to build makeshift beds.
Greece and Turkey lie in an especially earthquake-prone zone.-AP