A strong earthquake yesterday shook Croatia and its capital, causing widespread damage and panic.
A 15-year-old was reported in critical condition and others were injured, news outlets reported.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said the earthquake measured 5.3 and struck a wide area north of Zagreb at 6:23am.
The epicenter was 7km north of Zagreb at a depth of 10km.
Many buildings in Zagreb cracked and walls and rooftops were damaged. Downtown streets were littered with debris. Concrete slabs fell on cars and chimneys landed in front of entrances.
Photographs from the scene show mothers dressed in nightgowns hugging their newborn babies in a parking lot as they evacuated a maternity hospital amid freezing temperatures.
Zagreb’s iconic cathedral was also damaged with the top of one of its two spires collapsing. The cathedral was rebuilt after it toppled in the 1880 earthquake.
Power was cut as people ran out of their homes. Several fires were also reported. At least two other tremors were recorded later.
Officials first said a 15-year-old girl was killed, but doctors later said that she is in critical condition and that they are fighting for her life. They gave no immediate details on the extent of other injuries.
Residents shared photographs of belongings falling off shelves, broken bottles and glass inside homes.
The earthquake struck amid a partial lockdown of the capital because of the spread of COVID-19. People were told to avoid public areas, such as parks and public squares, but had no choice as they ran out of their apartments.
Up to five people keeping distance are allowed to be together.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said earthquake was the biggest in Zagreb in the last 140 years. He urged the citizens to remain calm and stay outside their homes in the central parts of Zagreb, which sustained the most damage.
“We have two parallel crisis that contradict each other,” Plenkovic said after an emergency meeting of Croatia’s top officials.
Croatia’s army and all emergency services would start clearing the streets as soon as possible, while assessment will start of the damage at the same time.
“We will try to clear the streets as soon as possible,” Plenkovic said. “Stay outside your homes and keep distance.”
Croatian Minister of the Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said the situation was complicated by the restrictive virus-related measures.
“There are rules for when there is an earthquake, but when there is an earthquake at the same time when there is a global pandemic, then it’s a much more complex situation,” Bozinovic told the state HINA news agency.
Meanwhile, Slovenia’s only nuclear power plant, Krsko, which is jointly owned with Croatia, has not been affected by the quake, but authorities said it had started inspecting systems and equipment as a normal preventive action.
“The nuclear power plant continues to operate at full power,” Slovenian Nuclear Safety Administration Director Igor Sirc said.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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