Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Earthquake kills two in Greece

AFTERSHOCKWith thousands homeless after the quake on Sunday, the government announced US$4,680 in aid to anyone whose primary residence had been destroyed

AP , ATHENS

A woman sits outside her destroyed house in the village of Fostena, Greece, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.5 struck southwestern Greece on Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring more than 100 and flattening dozens of homes, authorities said.

It was Greece’s first fatal earthquake since 1999, when a 5.9 magnitude quake near Athens killed 143 people and left thousands homeless.

Sunday’s quake struck at 3:25pm near the port city of Patras, about 200km west of Athens in the northwestern Peloponnese, and had a shallow epicenter, the Athens Geodynamic Institute said. It was felt as far away as southern Italy.

By nightfall, six of the 120 injured remained hospitalized, authorities said.

With dozens of houses destroyed or severely damaged, the government said it would give 3,000 euros (US$4,680) as aid to anyone who had lost their primary home in the quake.

“My thoughts in these hours are with our fellow citizens who are suffering,” Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement from Vienna, Austria, where he was on a three-day visit. “Along with sadness for all that has happened and for the loss of lives, I want to stress and underline that the state will be at [their] side.”

Karamanlis was to cut his visit to Austria short by two days and return to Greece yesterday.

Frequent aftershocks rattled already frightened residents, and seismologists urged caution, particularly around buildings damaged in the initial quake.

“We are watching the seismic activity with great attention. We are not yet certain that the danger is completely over,” Athens Geodynamic Institute director Gerasimos Papadopoulos said.

Although it was unlikely that there would be a stronger quake, “there is still concern. ... For this reason, and because strong aftershocks are expected, great care must be taken,” Papadopoulos said.

Authorities said they would set up tents for those left homeless and distribute food.

Transport planes, rescue helicopters and a specialized air force rescue crew were on standby, the National Defense General Staff said.

The quake damaged the air traffic control tower of the Andravida military airport, but a secondary tower was being used and the airport remained open, the general staff said.

Two families — seven people in total — were rescued after being trapped in collapsed houses in the village of Fostaina, about 30km south of Patras, and in the village of Vartholomio, authorities said.

Hours after the quake, terrified residents stayed away from their homes, gathering in village squares and outdoor coffee shops. Authorities cordoned off unsafe buildings and ordered all schools in the area to remain shut yesterday.

Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the damage was relatively light.

“An initial assessment shows we don’t have widespread damage,” Pavlopoulos said. “The consequences of an earthquake of this intensity and at this depth were relatively limited.”

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