AT LEAST eight people have been killed and hundreds injured as a powerful earthquake and mini-tsunami hit Turkey and Greece.
Horrifying pictures show the mass devastation as rescuers desperately search through the rubble for suvivors after the magnitude-7.0 tremor rocked the coasts and islands around the Aegean Sea.
⚠️ Read our Turkey earthquake live blog for the latest news & updates
Izmir, a Turkish city with a population of 4.4million, bore the brunt of the destruction.
At least 20 buildings collapsed and a mini-tsunami swept through coastal areas which swept a flood of debris – including cars – inland and left fish stranded as it receded.
People were left running for their lives as the massive surge burst through sea defences and turned the streets into raging torrents of salt water.
Rescuers are now facing a race against time to pull anymore survivors buried beneath the rubble of collapsed structures.
At least 70 people have been rescued from under the rubble.
The quake was also felt across the eastern Greek islands, such as Mykonos and Kos, and tsunami warnings were issued to many beachgoers.
Six people died in Turkey, were two teenagers, aged 15 and 17, were killed when a wall collapsed on the island of Samos.
Turkey’s health ministry said 38 ambulances, two ambulance helicopters and 35 medical rescue teams were working in Izmir.
Some two million foreign tourists visit Izmir every year, according to data from the Aegean Touristic Enterprises and Accommodation Union.
Pictures and video posted on social media show large clouds of dust rising over the city following the earthquake.
Aerial footage on Turkey’s NTV television showed entire city blocks turned to rubble.
Rescuers called for silence as they hunted for any signs of survivors, clearing boulders and other debris in a human chain.
TRT television showed rescuers being helped by residents and police using chainsaws as they tried to force their way through the rubble.
Ilke Cide, a doctoral student who was in Izmir’s Guzelbahce region during the earthquake, said he went inland after waters rose after the earthquake.
“I am very used to earthquakes… so I didn’t take it very seriously at first but this time it was really scary,” he said, adding the earthquake had lasted for at least 25-30 seconds.
Idil Gungor, who runs a hotel in Izmir’s Seferihisar district, told broadcaster NTV that people were cleaning the debris after the floodwaters receded.
She said fish had washed up on the garden of the hotel, around 50 metres from the shore.
The United States Geological Survey confirmed the enormous tremor was felt 190 miles away in Athens and some 200 miles away in Istanbul.
Following the news of the earthquake, Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias reached out to his Turkish counterpart and offered to send some members of their disaster relief team to Izmir.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan today, offering condolences.
“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.
“If the governments of these countries so wish, French aid can be immediately dispatched on the spot,” Mr Darmanin said.
It comes after tensions between the two countries following the publication of a cartoon of the Turkish president in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The mayor of Izmir’s Seferihisar, Ismail Yetiskin, has said the earthquake caused a rise in sea levels.
“There seems to be a small tsunami,” he told broadcaster NTV.
Residents fled their homes, while some rockfalls were reported and a mini-tsunami surged into Samos.
One of the fallen buildings on the island is the church of Panagia Theotokou in Karlovasi.
“The walls of some houses have crumbled and several buildings are damaged,” the island’s deputy mayor Michalis Mitsios was quoted as saying by public broadcaster ERT.
“It was chaos,” added fellow deputy mayor Giorgos Dionysiou. “We have never experienced anything like this.”
The island’s airport was also closed as a precaution.
The Greek civil protection agency told Samos’s residents in a text message to “stay out in the open and away from buildings”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted that he was ready to help “with all the means available to our state”.
Turkish environment and urban planning minister Murat Kurum confirmed people remain trapped under the wreckage in Izmir.
Witness Teoman Cüneyt Acar told Haberturk: “I was in a grocery store in Gaziemir during the earthquake.
“I saw that all my belongings started to fall. My mother was caught in the house. I saw my mother at the street door and everyone was outside.
“I entered the house during the aftershocks and I saw that there were cracks in the columns.
“According to him, some old buildings are in ruins. The shaking lasted 40-45 seconds.”
Witnesses said people flooded onto the streets in the popular tourist city after the quake struck.
Turkish officials and broadcasters have called on people to stay off the roads so emergency vehicles can move quickly to the disaster zone.
The quake struck at around 11.50am GMT and was felt along Turkey’s Aegean coast and the northwestern Marmara region.
Turkeys Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said the earthquake was centered in the Aegean Sea at a depth of 10.3 miles.
Seismologist Efthymios Lekkas told Greek state television ERT that it was still too early to say whether this was the main earthquake.
“It was a very big earthquake, it’s difficult to have a bigger one,” said Lekkas.
The earthquake is an event that is evolving, Lekkas said, adding that damage had been reported in parts of Samos.
A tsunami warning was issued, with residents of the Samos area told to stay away from the coastline.
It read: “Stay away from the coast. Danger from high waves due to earthquake.”
Aftershocks continue to rattle the area.
Water rose above the dock in the main harbor of Samos and flooded the street.
The regional governor of the Samos region, Yiannis Stamoulis, said no injuries had been reported on the island.
The chief of Samos hospital workers union told: The Greek City Times: “A few minutes ago we experienced a very big earthquake similar to that Samos has been experiencing for many years.
“People are panicking. They have gone out in the squares, in the streets.”
He added: “It was an earthquake that lasted several minutes. Very strong.”
Greece and Turkey are both situated in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.
In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey’s northwest, killing more than 17,000 people, including 1,000 in Istanbul.
Another quake in 2011 in the southeastern province of Van resulted in more than 600 deaths.
In Greece, the last deadly quake killed two people on the island of Kos, near Samos, in July 2017.