Central Croatia: Powerful earthquake hits
It was confirmed that at least seven people were killed and dozens wounded. With a preliminary magnitude of 6.4, the quake was the second in the region in 24 hours and tremors across the Balkans have been recorded.
After a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit on Tuesday, at least seven people were killed, hundreds were injured and several towns in central Croatia were left in ruins, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and officials from Croatia.
The full extent of casualties was not known and rescue services, supported by the army, searched the rubble for survivors as daylight faded.
The quake, which struck about 30 miles from the capital, Zagreb, just after noon local time, could be felt across the Balkans and as far away as Hungary. A smaller earthquake followed a day earlier and another one in March, rattling people in an area vulnerable to earthquakes.
The epicenter of the quake was near the towns of Petrinja and Sisak, home to the largest hospital in the area, which was largely unusable due to damage. While individuals wounded in the earthquake were still being taken to the facility for triage, including two in critical condition, the government said the patients would be evacuated there. The initiative will involve transferring 40 patients with coronavirus to other facilities as well.
Tomislav Dujmenovic, the director of the hospital, told state TV, "We have nowhere to go to work tomorrow, only the gynecology building remains, where we are currently taking care of the most seriously ill." "Tomorrow we've got nowhere to go."
He said at the time the earthquake hit, a woman was in labor and the operation was shifted outside. The mother and baby are both in good health.
Across the city, the damage caused by the earthquake was widespread.
"Half the capital building of the city has collapsed-the city is in a very bad state," Sisak's mayor, Kristina Ikic Banicek, told state television. "We help people as much as we can." One individual in the city was confirmed to have been killed.
The mayor said he walked by the body of a 12-year-old girl on the street in Petrinja, a town of around 25,000 people that still bears the scars of a major battle during the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia.
"This is a disaster," Darinko Dumbovic, the mayor, said. "My town is totally destroyed," he said in an emotional telephone interview broadcast on Croatian state television from the scene.
"We need firefighters, we don't know what's under the surface, we need help with a roof that fell on a car."
He added: "Mothers cry for their kids."
Local authorities in the nearby village of Glina said four people who had died had been rescued from the debris.
On social media and local television channels, pictures from Petrinja showed streets strewn with debris, buildings caved in with roofs and emergency teams scrambling to search for people who might have been trapped.
Orange dust filled the air as car alarms sounded, church bells clanged and cries for survivors echoed through the streets in the moments after the earth stopped shaking.
A man and a child were rescued from a car trapped under rubble in one dramatic rescue. The mayor told local media that he did not understand the condition of the two individuals, but that they seemed to be alive.
"I also heard that the kindergarten had collapsed," Mr. Dumbovic said, adding, "But fortunately, at that time, there were no children in the building."
In Croatia, the Red Cross said that it was a "very serious" situation.
In a region with a history of seismic activity, the earthquake on Tuesday came after a 5.2-magnitude tremor struck the area the day before, destroying buildings and rattling nerves.
And it was just hours after Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic had visited the Petrinja center to investigate the damage caused by the first earthquake.
They returned to the destruction on Tuesday.
This 2020 brings us tragedy after tragedy," Mr. Plenkovic said, adding that there were many small villages that had also suffered damage around the two larger cities."
While no casualties were caused by the first tremor on Monday, several buildings were damaged, putting them in a precarious state when the second quake hit.
The government removed travel restrictions placed in place to contain the coronavirus so that aid could arrive sooner and allow families to travel to those whose homes were destroyed.
The state news agency said in neighboring Slovenia that the country's only nuclear power plant, about 60 miles from the epicenter, was shut down as a precaution.
The Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary said in a statement that while the earthquake had been felt there, it had not shut down production.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said she had requested the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, to be ready to fly to Croatia to assist.
The area is vulnerable to earthquakes, and experts have cautioned that the threats faced by ageing buildings have not been addressed by the Balkan nations in southeastern Europe.
While many towns and villages trace their origins back hundreds of years, during the transition from communism to capitalism, a construction boom in the 1990s resulted in buildings that were designed without regard to safety standards.
Millions of people live in buildings that, experts warn, are unlikely to withstand a large earthquake.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre says the magnitude 6.4 event struck 46 kilometers southeast of Zagreb. According to official reports, it caused widespread damage, collapsing roofs, building facades and entire buildings. The tremors also prompted the precautionary shutdown of a nuclear power plant in neighbouring Slovenia. The region was hit by a slightly weaker tremor rocked the same region.