On Tuesday [local time] southwest of the capital, a powerful earthquake in Croatia damaged buildings and killed at least seven people, displacing hundreds of area residents or scaring them to sleep indoors as rescue teams searched for those who were still missing at nightfall.
The magnitude 6.3 quake struck 46 km southeast of Zagreb just before 12:20 pm local time, the European Mediterranean Seismological Center said. In the hardest-hit town of Petrinja, it caused widespread damage. A quake of magnitude 5.2 on Monday struck the same area.
Officials said that in Petrinja, a town of about 25,000 residents, a 12-year-old girl died. Another six people were killed in nearly destroyed villages close to the area, according to HRT state television. At least 26 people, six with serious injuries, were hospitalized, officials said, adding that several more people were unaccounted for.
Screams could be heard in Petrinja from beneath demolished homes. Some four hours after the quake, one woman was found alive. In the search for survivors, emergency teams used rescue dogs, as family members looked on in despair.
In a statement broadcast by HRT, Petrinja Mayor Darinko Dumbovic said, "My town has been destroyed. We have dead children," "This is like Hiroshima - half of the city no longer exists."
A local, Marica Pavlovic, said the quake felt "worse than a war"
"You don't know what to do, whether to run out or hide somewhere, It was horrible, a shock."
After the earthquake, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and other government ministers arrived in Petrinja.
"The biggest part of central Petrinja is in a red zone, which means that most of the buildings are not usable," Plenkovic said.
He said the army has 500 places ready to house people in barracks, while others will be accommodated in hotels and other places nearby.
"No one must stay out in the cold tonight," said the prime minister.
In the nearby town of Sisak, which was also badly hit by the earthquake, officials later visited a damaged hospital.
Plenkovic said patients at the hospital would be evacuated by army helicopters and ambulances. In the wake of the earthquake, health authorities said a baby was born in a tent in front of the hospital.
On Twitter, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said she spoke with Plenkovic and ordered an envoy to fly to Croatia as soon as possible.
Croatia, as a Mediterranean region, is susceptible to earthquakes, but not large ones. In the 1990s, when the picturesque Adriatic coast village of Ston was ruined, the last powerful quake hit.
From Petrinja, regional TV channel N1 announced that a collapsed building had fallen on a vehicle. Firefighters were seen in the video attempting to clear the rubble. Eventually, a man and a tiny boy were pulled from the car and rushed to an ambulance.
As emergency services used search dogs when searching for survivors in the ruins, broken bricks and dust littered the streets. Some four hours after the earthquake, a woman was found alive, rescuers reported.
In Petrinja, the Croatian military was mobilized to assist with the rescue operation.
The earthquake was described by Croatian seismologist Kresimir Kuk as "extremely strong" much stronger than another earthquake that hit Zagreb and nearby areas in the spring. He urged people to stay away from potentially shaky old buildings and move to new parts of the city due to aftershocks.
People fled into the streets in the capital in terror.
Throughout the country and in neighboring Serbia, Bosnia, and Slovenia, the earthquake was felt. The Austria Press Agency announced that it was felt as far away as Graz in southern Austria.
Authorities in Slovenia said that after the earthquake, the Krsko nuclear power plant was temporarily shut down. The power plant is jointly owned by and near the border of Slovenia and Croatia.