Magnitude 6.3 earthquake hits Croatia; 7 dead

Magnitude 6.3 earthquake hits Croatia; 7 dead

The tremor, one of the strongest to rock Croatia in recent years, collapsed rooftops in Petrinja, home to some 20,000 people

A destroyed car is seen on a street after an earthquake in Sisak, Croatia December 29, 2020. Credit: Reuters Photo

At least seven people were killed, dozens were wounded and several towns in central Croatia were left in ruins after a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and Croatian officials.

The full extent of casualties was not known, and as daylight faded, emergency crews, assisted by the military, searched the wreckage for survivors.

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. It followed a smaller earthquake a day earlier and another in March, rattling residents in the earthquake-prone region.

The epicenter of the quake was near the towns of Petrinja and Sisak, which is home to the region’s largest hospital, rendered largely unusable because of damage. Although people injured in the quake were still being taken to the facility to be triaged, including two in critical condition, the government said it would evacuate the patients there. That effort would also include moving 40 coronavirus patients to other facilities.

One person was reported to have been killed in the city.

In Petrinja, a town of around 25,000 people, the mayor said he walked by the body of a 12-year-old girl on the street.

“This is a catastrophe,” said the mayor, Darinko Dumbovic. “My city is completely destroyed,” he said in an emotional telephone interview from the scene that was broadcast on Croatian state television.

“We need firefighters; we don’t know what’s under the surfaces, a roof fell on a car. We need help.”

He added: “Mothers are crying for their children.”

In the nearby village of Glina, local officials said four people who died had been pulled from the rubble.

The government lifted travel restrictions put in place to contain the coronavirus so that assistance could arrive more quickly and to allow those whose homes were destroyed to travel to relatives.

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