Earthquake kills 2 on Greek island, sends tourists panicking

A powerful earthquake sent a building crashing down on tourists at a bar on the Greek holiday island of Kos early Friday, killing two and striking panic that reached the shores of nearby Turkey. Some 200 people were injured in the tumult.

Rescue authorities said that two men — a Turk and a Swede — died in the collapse at the White Corner Club when the 6.5-magnitude quake struck at about 1:30 a.m., rattling Greek islands and the Turkish Aegean coast in a region where seismic activity is common. The dead vacationers were not named.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry confirmed a Turkish citizen was killed in Kos and said a second national in serious condition was being evacuated to Athens for treatment. The country has also sent a vessel to the island to bring some 200 Turkish tourists home.

Hundreds of revelers were in or near the popular White Corner Club in the old town of Kos when the building partially collapsed.

Greek officials said at least five other people were seriously injured on Kos as tourists and local residents scrambled out of buildings, some even leaping from balconies. Five of the injured were being transported by helicopter to a hospital on the island of Crete.

“There was banging. There was shaking. The light was swinging, banging on the ceiling, crockery falling out of the cupboards, and pans were making noise,” Christopher Hackland, a Scottish diving instructor, told the Associated Press.

“There was a lot of screaming and crying and hysterics coming from the hotel. It felt like being at a theme park with one of the illusions, an optical illusion where you feel like you’re upside down.”

Tens of thousands of tourists spent the night outdoors on Kos, many sleeping on sunbeds along beaches as a quake-related sea swell subsided. The quake damaged churches, an old mosque, and the port’s 14th century castle, along with old buildings in the town.

In nearby Turkey, the quake caused cracks on walls of some buildings in the resort of Bodrum, flooded the lower floors of sea-front hotels and restaurants and sent moored boats crashing toward the shore.

Boat captain Metin Kestaneci, 40, told the private Dogan news agency that he was asleep on his vessel when the quake hit.

“There was first a noise and then a roar. Before I could ask ‘what’s happening?’ my boat was dragged toward the shore. We found ourselves on the shore,” Kestaneci said. “I’ve never experienced such a thing.”

Turkish authorities said some 70 people were treated in hospitals in the resort of Bodrum for minor injuries, mostly sustained during panicked flight from their homes. But damage was light and they expect life will soon return to normal, encouraging tourists to continue their holidays.

Istanbul-based Kandilli earthquake research center said the quake caused a small ‘tsunami’ with waters sweeping between 10 and 100 meters (yards) in to the coast, recording more than 160 aftershocks.

Several Greek government ministers, as well as rescuers with sniffer dogs and structural engineers traveled to Kos overnight to coordinate the rescue effort. The British Foreign Office warned travelers of the possibility of aftershocks, urging them to follow the advice of the local authorities.

Authorities said there were no reported injuries of refugees and migrants at camps on the island.

A seafront road and parts of the island’s main town were flooded for several hours, and the rising seawater even pushed a boat onto the main road and caused several cars to slam into each other. Ferry services were canceled until further inspection, with passengers rerouted to nearby islands.

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).

“The damage on the island (of Kos) is not widespread. The airport is working, and the road network and infrastructure are in good shape,” Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said.

“The damage was at the bar and the old part of the town and we had the very unfortunate deaths of the two people.”

The collapsed building dated to the 1930s, 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.

Rescuers were checking for trapped people inside houses across Kos at dozens of villages and other sites, but said the damage was confined to the island’s main town.

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Gatopoulos reported from Athens, Greece; Wieting reported from Bitez, Turkey. Associated Press journalists Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Elena Becatoros in Saranda, Albania; and Ron DePasquale and Stephanie Siek in New York contributed.

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