UPDATE: Powerful Aegean earthquake claims 27 lives, injures hundreds in Turkey and Greek islands

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At least 27 people died and more than 800 were injured in Turkey and the Greek islands when a strong earthquake hit the Aegean Sea on Friday, collapsing 17 buildings in coastal Turkey and sending a surge of seawater flooding streets near the western city of Izmir.

According to data from Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), 25 people have lost their lives, one from drowning, while 743 more were injured in İzmir, Turkey’s third-largest city with some 4.5 million residents. AFAD added that 54 people were injured in Aydın, five in Manisa and two in Balıkesir provinces, bringing the total number to 804 in Turkey.

A total of 196 aftershocks have been recorded, 23 of which were over magnitude 4.0, AFAD also reported.

Turkish Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said in a statement early on Saturday that search and rescue operations continued at eight out of 17 collapsed or damaged buildings in İzmir, adding that authorities were setting up tents with a total capacity of 2,000 people near areas with the greatest damage as more buildings could collapse.

Photos and footage circulating on social media showed debris including refrigerators, chairs and tables floating through streets in the deluge in İzmir. The state-run TRT Haber also showed cars that had been dragged by the water and piled on top of each other in the Seferihisar district.

Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were found dead in an area where a wall had collapsed on the Greek island of Samos, state-run broadcaster ERT said. Residents of the island, which has a population of about 45,000, were reportedly urged to stay away from coastal areas due to the possibility of high tidal waves.

While the US Geological Survey (USGS) said the magnitude of Friday’s earthquake was 7.0, Turkey’s AFAD put it lower, at 6.6. USGS said the quake, which was felt as far away as Athens and İstanbul, struck at a depth of 10 kilometers, although Turkish officials said it was 16 kilometers below the seabed.

Turkey’s presidency said the leaders of Turkey and Greece, who are caught up in a bitter dispute over exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, spoke by phone and expressed hope that both countries would see a speedy recovery from the earthquake.

“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted after calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“That two neighbors show solidarity in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life,” Erdoğan said in response to Mistotakis.

Turkey is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. A 7.6 magnitude earthquake in northwestern Turkey left more than 17,000 people, including hundreds in İstanbul, dead and hundreds of thousands displaced in August 1999. Since then, experts have warned that a major earthquake is expected to hit İstanbul.

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