AN EARTHQUAKE last Friday in the Aegean Sea has killed at least 115 people, authorities in Turkey said on Wednesday, after buildings collapsed and others, including the Roman Catholic St John’s Cathedral, Izmir, were seriously damaged. The Anglican chaplaincy in Izmir escaped harm.
The earthquake last Friday is the deadliest to hit Turkey in more than a decade. Most of the casualties were around Izmir, but two teenagers were killed on the Greek island of Samos. Rescue work is ongoing, and hopes were buoyed by the rescue of a three-year-old girl, Elif, from the rubble of a building, 90 hours after the quake struck.
The earthquake, which the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said had a magnitude of 6.9, was centred in the Aegean Sea, north-east of Samos. There have since been nearly 1200 aftershocks in the region.
The Rector of St John’s Cathedral, Fr Ugo De Rosa, said on Wednesday: “Thanks be to God, there were no injuries [in the cathedral]. We just got so scared. The damage to the cathedral is quite serious. With the experts, we are verifying the extent of the damage. The restoration work will take a long time. This is not good for Izmir’s small Christian community. In the Christian community, there are no victims or injuries. Some had to leave their homes due to the damage.
“The other churches in the diocese suffered minor damage. The church of St Polycarp, which is the oldest in Izmir, has suffered serious damage. Our cathedral assists foreigners in the area as well as the community of Turkish origin.”
St Polycarp’s has been seriously damaged before: once by an earthquake, and three times by fire, in its 400-year history. Fr De Rosa asked for prayers from Christians around the world. “Our small and poor community entrusts itself to your prayers.”
The smaller Anglican Church of St John the Evangelist, Izmir, escaped any damage, its Chaplain, the Revd James Buxton, said, although it was full of dust and shook dramatically during the earthquake. His congregation, which is scattered around the city of four million people, were all safe, he said. The main area of damage was two miles away from the church, in the Bayrakli district.
The city was still hoping for more survivors, he said. “The city is incredibly well organised, and its been a quite amazing rescue, in which the weather, which is neither too hot or too cold, has helped.”
Volunteer disaster-response teams, which are trained all year round, have set up shelters and are scanning for further survivors, he said.
Izmir is the site of the ancient city of Smyrna. The Church of England chaplaincy in the region is one of the oldest: it was established in 1636, and is now in the diocese in Europe.
The diocese has asked for prayers for Izmir and Samos, for those injured and bereaved, the emergency services, and the people and governments of both Greece and Turkey.