A search for survivors in Croatia took place on Tuesday night after a powerful earthquake killed at least seven people in the interior of the country and tore down rooftops and piled bricks on the streets.
The 6.4 magnitude earthquake was felt as far away as Vienna, but the major damage was concentrated in and around Petrinja, a city of about 20,000 about 50 kilometers south of the Croatian capital Zagreb.
Rescue teams shoveled away debris in search of victims as night fell after the quake of the day, while the European Union announced more help was on the way.
Prime Minister Andrei Plenkovic said late on Tuesday that seven victims had been found so far and that there would probably be more.
Among the dead was a young girl in Petrinja, reportedly 12 years old, and at least five people in a nearby village, according to Croatian police, who said about 20 people were injured.
Six people were rescued from the rubble with the help of dogs, says Croatia’s Mountain Rescue Service.
Many in Petrinja were afraid to return home at night for fear of aftershocks, while earthquake damage left most of the buildings in the district “unsuitable for use”, according to construction technicians.
“All the tiles in the bathroom are broken, all the dishes fell out,” Marica Pavlovic, a 72-year-old retired meat factory worker, told AFP about the damage to her apartment.
“Even if we wanted to, we could not go in again, there is no electricity,” she said, hugging others in a park in the center, wrapped in blankets.
Some people chose to spend the night in their cars or stay with relatives in other cities, while almost 200 took refuge in a military barracks.
In the nearby town of Sisak, which was also severely damaged by the earthquake, schools opened their gyms to those who could not sleep at home.
The European Union’s crisis management chief, Janez Lenarcic, said the bloc was preparing for help and that he would visit Petrinja on Wednesday.
“Currently, most winter tents, electric heaters, bed beds and sleeping bags as well as containers are needed,” Lenarcic wrote on Twitter.
‘A huge ruin’
Petrinja Mayor Darinko Dumbovic said a kindergarten was among the buildings that collapsed from the quake. Fortunately, it was empty then.
“The city is actually a huge ruin,” Dumbovic told national radio. “We save people, we save lives. We have dead people, we miss people, injured … it’s a disaster.”
The quake, which hit around 1130 GMT according to the US Geological Survey, shook Petrinja and the surrounding area just one day after a minor earthquake occurred in the same vicinity and caused some damage to buildings.
Josip Horvat, a 44-year-old artist, said that when Tuesday’s tremor struck, he fixed a friend’s chimney that had been damaged the previous day.
“I grabbed the gutter and just prayed to God that it would end as soon as possible,” he told AFP.
Tuesday’s earthquake also shook the capital Zagreb, where panicked residents gathered on the streets when the shocks tore tiles from the roof.
The quakes raged over neighboring countries, including Serbia and Slovenia, which, as a precautionary measure, closed the Krsko nuclear power plant, which it owns together with Croatia.
Zagreb is still rebuilding from a 5.3 magnitude earthquake that occurred in March, the most powerful that hit the capital in decades.
The Balkan region is located on major fault lines and regularly sees earthquakes.