Rescue workers searched the rubble in Vrisa for victims of the earthquake. PIX: Reuters /BBC

LESBOS, GREECE – A strong earthquake has struck off the Aegean coast of western Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos, with tremors felt in Istanbul and Athens.

The epicentre of the 6.3 magnitude quake was 5km (3 miles) south of Plomari, a town on the coast of Lesbos, the US Geological Survey said.

Several buildings were damaged but the village of Vrisa was worst hit with 10 people taken to hospital.

Turkey and Greece sit on significant fault lines and earthquakes are common.

The initial quake struck at 15:28 (12:28 GMT) on Monday and was followed by two aftershocks minutes later.

Details of damage and casualties in Vrisa took some time to emerge, but the mayor told Greek media the place looked like it had been “flattened by bombs”. A woman was trapped in the rubble of her home reportedly with a fractured spine. None of the injuries were said to be life-threatening.

So many buildings collapsed in Vrisa that the mayor said it looked like it had been flattened by bombs .
PIX: Reuters /BBC

Vrisa’s 500 residents were set to spend the night in tents or nearby hotels, Kathimerini website said. The main road from the island’s capital, Mytilene to Plomari was damaged by a landslide, public TV reported.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the safety of people on Lesbos and neighbouring Chios was paramount. No injuries were reported on Chios.

Buildings also shook in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir. “The trembling was really bad. Everything in my clinic started shaking wildly, we all ran outside with the patients,” Didem Eris, a 50-year-old dentist told Reuters news agency.

“We are very used to earthquakes as people of Izmir but this one was different. I thought to myself that this time we were going to die.”

Social media users who said they were in western Turkey reported a strong and sustained tremor, with aftershocks later felt across the Aegean region.

“We will be seeing the aftershocks of this in the coming hours, days and weeks,” said Haluk Ozener, head of Turkey’s Kandilli observatory in Istanbul.

Turkey and Greece have experienced dozens of earthquakes in recent decades.

At least 51 people were killed in a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey in March 2010.

In 1999, a 7.6 magnitude quake hit the city of Izmit, killing more than 17,000 people and leaving half a million more homeless in densely populated parts of the north-west of the country. -BBC


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