Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 26 September 2020

Croatia earthquake: Zagreb hit by strongest tremors in 140 years

The earthquake shook the country’s capital, causing widespread damage

Soldiers clear debris from the street after an earthquake in Zagreb, Croatia, on Sunday, March 22, 2020. AP
Soldiers clear debris from the street after an earthquake in Zagreb, Croatia, on Sunday, March 22, 2020. AP

Croatia’s capital Zagreb has been hit by an earthquake described as the strongest to strike the country in 140 years.

A 15-year-old was reported to be in critical condition and 16 others were injured, authorities said following the tremors, which caused widespread damage and panic in the city.

Zagreb remains on partial lockdown because of the coronavirus crisis.

Despite the public health emergency, hospitals had to be evacuated.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the earthquake was the strongest to hit the Croatian capital in 140 years.

The country’s parliament was damaged by the earthquake, as was Zagreb’s cathedral, which had to be rebuilt after an earthquake last hit the city, in 1880. The worst of the damage this time was to one of its two spires, which collapsed.

In the frantic moments following the tremors, mothers from an evacuated maternity ward had to tend to their newborn infants in a freezing hospital car park.

Power cuts were widespread and fires broke out, according to reports. At least two other aftershock tremors were reported.

The European seismological agency said the earthquake measured 5.3 and struck a wide area north of the capital, Zagreb, at 6.23am local time, or 9.23am in the UAE. The epicentre was seven kilometres north of the city.

Soldiers wearing masks and carrying shovels could be seen helping efforts to clear the damage on the streets of Zagreb. Senior officials visited damaged areas while some criticised city authorities over the poor states of buildings in the old part of the city, some of which date back to the 19th century.

Mr Plenkovic has urged residents not to panic and to remain outside of the homes. But because of the threat posed by the novel coronavirus, citizens have also been advised to stay away from public places.

“We have two parallel crisis that contradict each other,” Mr Plenkovic said after an emergency meeting of Croatia’s top officials.

“We will try to clear the streets as soon as possible,” he said.

“Stay outside your homes and keep your distance.”

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said the situation was complicated by the restrictive virus-related measures in place.

"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.

Health Minister Vili Beros warned people to keep a two-meter "social distance" as requested by decrees passed by the government in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are 235 coronavirus cases confirmed so far in Croatia.

"Earthquakes are dangerous, but coronavirus is even more so," Beros said, as people rushed out of their homes to congregate in city parks.

Updated: March 22, 2020 07:25 PM

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