Hundreds of people on the eastern Greek island of Kos have spent the night sleeping outdoors after a powerful earthquake killed two tourists and injured nearly 500 others across the Aegean Sea region in Greece and Turkey. Residents and tourists were too afraid to return to their homes and hotels, camping out instead in parks and olive groves, or slumbering in their cars or on lounge chairs. The most seriously injured in Greece were airlifted to hospitals on the mainland and the southern island of Crete, and at least two were listed in critical condition today.
The US Geological Survey measured the quake, which struck early yesterday, as being of magnitude 6.7, with Greek and Turkish estimates a fraction lower. Two men, one from Turkey and one from Sweden, were killed when a collapsing wall smashed into a popular a bar in the Old Town of Kos. The Turkish man’s parents were on the island Saturday making arrangements to repatriate his body. Panagiotis Bekali, a 30-year-old who has lived on Kos for several years, spent the night sleeping in an olive grove with his entire family. His 5-year-old son and 16-year-old nephew slept in the family car.
“There were cracks in the house (from the earthquake) so we went straight out,” he said. “We were afraid to stay indoors so the whole family slept outside.” Dozens of aftershocks have shaken the island, further rattling residents and tourists. John Grant, a 60-year-old tourist from Britain, said he felt safer sleeping outside. “I think coming from somewhere that doesn’t have earthquakes, you don’t understand,” he said from his makeshift bed set up on a lounge chair. “So to me it was very frightening being in the building, but being outside I know I’m safe.”
About 350 of the injuries occurred in Turkey, in Bodrum and other beach resorts, as people fled buildings and as the sea swell flung cars off the road and pushed boats ashore. Seismologists said the shallow depth of the undersea quake was to blame for the damage. In Kos, the quake damaged the island’s main port, leading to ferry services being temporarily suspended. Churches, an old mosque, the port’s 14th-century castle and old buildings in the town also suffered, and archaeologists and experts from Greece’s Culture Ministry were on the island Saturday to examine the damage.
Ferry services to Kos were being restored Saturday, with ships diverted to the smaller port of Kefalos on the island’s southwestern coast. Kos Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis said the biggest infrastructure problem on the island was the damage to the main port. Coast guard divers were on the scene inspecting the condition of the jetty. “Life on the island is returning to normal,” Kyritsis said. “The infrastructure problems are being repaired.” The mayor said Kos hadn’t seen many tourist booking cancellations as a result of the quake. Visitors, he said, “are touring the island with their tour guides. We don’t have a big problem. The ferry connection has been restored with the port of Kefalos and we are waiting as soon as possible to repair the damage at the (main) port.”