Former SDLP assembly member among holidaymakers affected by earthquake in Turkey

Many tourists in Kos in Greece chose to stay and sleep outdoors following the earthquake. Photo by Lauren Duffy/PA Wire
Marie Louise McConville

Hundreds of tourists from Northern Ireland have been caught up in a powerful earthquake which struck off the coast of the Greek islands and Turkey.

Two people died and more than 120 were injured when the quake, which had a magnitude of 6.7, struck south of the Turkish city of Bodrum and east of the Greek island of Kos - both of which are popular with Irish and British tourists.

Buildings on Kos were damaged by the tremors, which prompted a small tsunami, flooding parts of the island.

Tourists were forced to flee their hotel rooms in terror, some jumping off balconies, when the quake hit at around 1.30am yesterday.

Minutes later, tsunami waves surged through beach front resorts, flooding bars and restaurants, carrying away cars and dumping boats in town streets.

Many of the holidaymakers were forced to erect make-shift beds outdoors, opting to sleep outside rather than risk returning indoors for fear of after-shocks.

Two tourists - a 22-year-old man from Sweden and a 39-year-old man from Turkey - were killed on the island of Kos after being crushed under a collapsed ceiling.

There were also reports that another man from Sweden had lost both of his legs.

Pat Ramsey, a former SDLP assembly member, who is on holiday in Altinkum in Turkey with his wife, Chris and 16-year-old daughter, Aine said he became aware of the earthquake when the teenager started shouting.

"The ceiling lights were swaying and the furniture was moving," he said.

"We had a good idea what it was. The resort is very popular with the Derry ones. It was one of them who knocked on our door. He said `You better evacuate the apartment block. There's a probability of another tremor and it's sensible to be out of the building'.

"There were literally hundreds outside. There is quite a large swimming pool, that erupted and flooded the decking area where the sunbeds would be.

"We just went further away, as far away as we could from the building".

The Derry man said those who evacuated were "genuinely anxious, unsure, uncertain" whether to go back into the apartment block.

"I think there was more the fear of a secondary one," he said.

"There was no structural damage. It was well after 3am when we went back in".

Speaking yesterday, he said: "The boats haven't went out to sea today, there seems to be a worry that the current in the sea might be much stronger. The beaches are much quieter".

Paul Quinn, from Derry, who is also on holiday in Altinkum in Turkey, described the experience as "scary".

He was watching TV with friends in a fourth-floor apartment when the earthquake struck.

"We heard rumbling beforehand, we thought it was music in the town," he said.

"The whole place started shaking. We looked out and everyone was evacuating We are four floors up. It was definitely scary".

The 56-year-old added: "The beaches are under alert. Compared to yesterday, the beaches were jam-packed, they are empty. Friends of ours were down in town when it happened. There was a lot of panic".

Meanwhile, huge crowds of tourists could yesterday be seen queuing outside Kos International Airport in a bid to leave the Greek island following the quake.

Photographs showed many holiday makers sitting and lying on the ground with their luggage outside the airport's main terminal, amid reports of flight delays.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last night said there were "no indications of any Irish citizens being involved".

"Irish citizens in the area should make contact with their family and follow the advice of local authorities," said a spokesman.

"Anyone with serious concerns for Irish citizens in the area can call +353 1 408 2527".

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said: "Any British people in the areas affected should follow the instructions of local authorities".

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