When Simay, 26, a resident of Izmir, decided to spend a Friday afternoon in the coastal town of Seferihisar, an hour’s drive away from her home, she was unaware she was getting closer to the centre of a powerful earthquake.
“There was food on the street, probably people were eating and threw them away with panic,” she said. “Also, were there crushed plates, glasses, objects. Everybody rushed outside the apartments, some were not even wearing shoes, only socks.”
The quake had a 6.9 magnitude, according to the Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute. It was also felt in neighbouring cities and in Istanbul. At least 12 people were left dead in Turkey and two on the island of Samos in neighbouring Greece, with hundreds injured.
At least 20 buildings have collapsed, and small tsunamis were observed in the Seferihisar district.
Footage on social media showed collapsing buildings, scenes of chaos and panicked people trying to rescue those trapped under the debris.
Most of the residents rushed to their cars after the quake, driving to their summer houses or safer areas but causing a traffic jam in the city centre.
Others stayed outside their apartments, waiting for a reasonable explanation or help from the authorities.
Search and rescue operations continued across Izmir province as night fell, with 38 ambulances, two ambulance helicopters and 35 medical rescue teams at work.
Sinan, 58, who was visiting his family in Izmir and felt the earthquake, said it was as powerful as the 1999 Istanbul earthquake, which left at least 18,000 people dead.
“It was very scary. My son was in the apartment and I was struggling to stand while trying to get to him,” Sinan said.
After the quake, he joined the crowd outside with his family, including a 90-year-old relative. “We arranged a plastic chair, she is sitting on that. The cafes around are serving people food and drinks, there is a kind of solidarity here,” he said.
Some hotel owners and residents offered free rooms to people in need.
Ilkan, 39, a resident of Izmir, says people are used to minor earthquakes as they hit the city quite frequently.
However, he said this one was the biggest earthquake he had experienced in his life. Ilkan stayed outside his apartment after it struck, like everybody else, surrounded by ambulance sirens, helicopters and traffic jams.
Simay, now back in the city, is traumatised by the experience and waiting outside her sister’s apartment with her family.
“Right now we are outside my sister’s apartment, not planning to go back into our houses. We plan to stay outside tonight,” she said.