Officials tell Military Times there were no reported injuries to the roughly 100 U.S. military personnel stationed in Izmir, Turkey, which was devasted by a major earthquake Friday morning that killed at least 14 and injured hundreds in Turkey and Greece.
A damage assessment is still underway in the wake of the quake, Army Lt. Col. Travis Dettmer, a spokesman for NATO Allied Land Command, said in a telephone interview from Izmir.
There are currently about 70 troops, mostly soldiers, but some airmen and one Marine, stationed at the headquarters garrison of LANDCOM and about another 30 airmen stationed at the 425th Air Base Squadron, located in a building in downtown Izmir, Dettmer said. The garrison is about five miles away from the hardest hit area, Dettmer said.
“We have full accountability of our 425 ABS members stationed in Izmir, with no known injuries,” said a message posted on the unit’s Facebook page Friday afternoon. “Our number one priority is to ensure the members of the squadron remain safe and cared for through the aftermath of the earthquake today.”
Officials acknowledged concerns of loved ones.
“We know that your families are worried, and that a number of our Turkish hosts have also been severely impacted. As the situation unfolds, we will support and equip the 425th with the tools they need to pull through this together.”
This "was by far the worst earthquake we have had since I’ve been here and we have had several,” said Dettmer, who has been in Izmir for the past 16 months. “People were taking cover and yelling. That has not been my experience since I have been here. People were legitimately terrified.”
LANDCOM is the Theater Land Component and Land Advocate responsible for coordinating and synchronizing NATO and partner land forces. It is commanded by Army Lt. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier Jr., who assumed command of Allied Land Command in August. All told, there are about 400 international personnel assigned to LANDCOM, Dettmer said.
The 425th Air Support Base supports the LANDCOM garrison, providing medical, commissary and other functions, Dettmer said.
A small tsunami struck the Seferihisar district south of Izmir, the city in western Turkey that was the worst affected, said Haluk Ozener, director of the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute.
At least 12 people were killed in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, including one who drowned, and 419 were injured, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD.
On Samos, where a tsunami warning was issued, two teenagers died after being struck by a wall that collapsed. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted condolences, saying “Words are too poor to describe what one feels before the loss of children.” Another eight people were reportedly treated at the local hospital for light injuries.
Izmir Gov. Yavuz Selim Kosger said at least 70 people were rescued from wrecked buildings, with four destroyed and more than 10 collapsed. Others suffered less severe damage, he said, but did not give an exact number.
Search and rescue efforts were underway in at least 17 buildings, AFAD said. Turkish media showed rescuers pulling people from the rubble. Smoke rose from several spots.
The earthquake, which the Kandilli institute said had a magnitude of 6.9, struck at 2:51 p.m. local time in Turkey and was centered was centered in the Aegean northeast of Samos at a depth of 10.3 miles.
It was felt across the eastern Greek islands and as far as the Greek capital, Athens, and in Bulgaria. In Turkey, it was also felt across the regions of Aegean and Marmara, including Istanbul. Istanbul’s governor said there were no reports of damage in the city, Turkey’s largest.
Videos on Twitter showed flooding in the Seferihisar district, and Turkish officials and broadcasters called on people to stay off the streets after reports of traffic congestion.
This story contains information from the Associated Press. Stay with Military Times for updates.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.