KOS, Greece (AP) — A powerful earthquake shook beach resorts Friday in Greece and Turkey, killing two tourists crushed when a building collapsed on a bar in the Greek island of Kos and injuring nearly 500 others across the Aegean Sea region.
Only a few miles apart, Kos and the Turkish resort of Bodrum were hit hours before dawn by the shallow undersea quake that caused a two-foot (0.6-meter) sea swell and havoc among residents and thousands of vacationers at bars and restaurants.
The U.S. Geological survey measured the quake as being of magnitude 6.7, with Greek and Turkish estimates a fraction lower.
“It was shocking, terrifying,” Kos resident Vassilis Megas told The Associated Press. “The whole house shook back and forth. People ran out into streets. We did too, and stayed out all night.”
Two men — from Turkey and Sweden — were killed when a collapsing wall smashed into White Corner Club, a popular a bar in the Old Town of Kos. Several others were seriously injured and airlifted to larger hospitals in Greece — one person had to have a leg amputated and another had life-threatening head injuries, doctors said.
Many of the other injuries occurred when tourists and residents scrambled out of buildings and even leapt from balconies. Hundreds of revelers were in the White Corner Club at the time.
“It was shaking a bit, and I was like ‘OK.’ Then everything. I saw the bar just floating around and drinks flying all over the place. I saw people freezing and then running out, pushing,” said Linda Lundgren, who works at a nearby bar.
“I saw every bartender jumping over the bar. I was like getting the roof out of my head because it was falling and then we came out and I was like trying to find my staff and everything just turned black,” she said.
The quake came in the midst of Greece and Turkey’s vital summer tourism industry. Afterward, many people spent the night outside, sleeping on sunbeds and at cafes.
Most of injuries, about 350, 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 quake was to blame for the damage and the sea swell that scattered cars, boats, and trash bins across shores in the east Aegean Sea.
“For the strength of this earthquake, followed by so many aftershocks, the damage was actually quite limited. Most people have been cleared to return home,” said Greek seismologist Efthymios Lekkas, who led a government inspection team on Kos.
In Kos, the quake damaged churches, an old mosque, the port’s 14th-century castle and old buildings in the town.
“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,” Kos Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis said, noting that a deadly earthquake in 1933 had flattened the island’s main town.
Turkish companies provided additional flights and ferries to Kos to bring citizens home after the earthquake.
Menalaos Hajicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, Turkey, and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece.