/Strong Earthquake Strikes Central Croatia – The New York Times

Strong Earthquake Strikes Central Croatia – The New York Times


At least one person was killed and a town in central Croatia was left in ruins after a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and local officials.

The full extent of casualties was not known. There were reports that the quake, which hit just after noon local time about 30 miles from the capital, Zagreb, could be felt across the Balkans and as far away as Hungary.

The epicenter of the quake was near the town of Petrinja, and the mayor, Darinko Dumbovic, told Croatian state television that at least one persona 12-year-old girl, had been killed. He said he had walked by her body on the street.

“This is a catastrophe,” he said. “My city is completely destroyed.”

“We need firefighters, we don’t know what’s under the surfaces, a roof fell on a car, we need help,” he said in an emotional telephone interview from the scene that was broadcast on Croatian state television.

“Mothers are crying for their children,” he said.

Images from the town on social media and local television stations showed streets strewn with rubble, buildings with roofs caved in and rescue crews rushing to search for people who may have been trapped.

In the moments after the earth stopped shaking, orange dust filled the air as car alarms sounded, church bells clanged and shouts for survivors echoed through streets.

In one dramatic rescue, a man and a child were pulled from a car buried under debris. The mayor told local reporters that he did not know the condition of the two people but that they appeared to be alive.

“I also heard that the kindergarten collapsed,” he said, adding: “But fortunately there were no children” in the building at the time.

The Red Cross in Croatia said it was a “very serious” situation.

The earthquake was the second to strike the area in two days, after a 5.2-magnitude tremor Monday morning damaged buildings and stoked fears in a region with a history of seismic activity.

It came only hours after Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic toured the center of Petrinja to survey damage from the first quake.

While that first tremor caused no injuries, Mr. Dumbovic said that many buildings had been damaged, putting them in a precarious condition when the second quake struck.

He said that there had been several small earthquakes in recent days and that many residents were afraid to spend the night in their houses.

In Zagreb, where people ran out into the streets during the quake, many decided to ignore the ban on travel put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus and leave the city.

In neighboring Slovenia, the state news agency said the country’s sole nuclear power plant, located about 60 miles from the epicenter, was shut down as a precaution.

The Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary said in a statement it had not shut down production although the earthquake had been felt there.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said she had asked Janez Lenarcic, the European commissioner for crisis management, to stand ready to travel to Croatia to provide assistance.

The region is prone to earthquakes, and experts have warned that the Balkan nations in southeastern Europe have failed to address the risks posed by aging buildings.

While many towns and villages trace their roots back hundreds of years, a building boom that took place in the 1990s, during the transition to capitalism from Communism, often meant that structures were constructed without regard for safety standards.

The result is that millions of people live in buildings that are unlikely to survive a major earthquake, experts say.

In Croatia, the scars of past quakes are still visible in places like Dubrovnik, where a quake in 1667 leveled nearly a third of the city and killed more than 5,000 people.

Alisa Dogramadzieva and Joe Orovic contributed reporting.

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