Published on : Monday, March 23, 2020
A powerful earthquake in Croatia on Sunday caused huge panic among the citizens, the evacuation of hospitals and widespread damage including to the Zagreb’s iconic cathedral – all in the middle of coronavirus lockdown. The civic authorities said that a 15-year-old was reported to be in critical condition and 16 others were injured.
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences said the earthquake, which was felt across the Western Balkans, struck at a depth of 10km (six miles). It downgraded the magnitude to 5.3 from an initial reading of 6.0. One of the witness said that this earthquake lasted over 10 seconds. By far, the strongest he had ever felt.
The US Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 5.4, while the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) also reported a magnitude 5.3, followed by another magnitude 5.1 earthquake.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the earthquake was the biggest in Zagreb in the last 140 years. The downtown streets were littered with debris. The concrete slabs of the buildings fell on cars and chimneys landed in front of entrances.
The footage from the scene showed mothers dressed in nightgowns hugging their newborn babies in a car park as they evacuated a damaged maternity hospital amid freezing temperatures. The women, newborn babies and incubators were being moved to a new location with the help of the army.
In Zagreb, people fled apartments and took to the streets while parts of the capital experienced electricity cuts. A church bell tower was damaged and some buildings collapsed. Several fires were also reported. The residents shared photos of belongings falling off shelves, broken bottles and glass inside homes. The officials first said a 15-year-old was killed, but doctors later said she was in critical condition and they were fighting to save her life. They gave no immediate details on the extent of other injuries.
Croatia’s Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic issued an appeal on Twitter for people in the streets to keep a social distance from each other as the country struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. So far, Croatia has confirmed 206 cases of the virus and one death.
The prime minister of Croatia urged the citizens to remain calm and stay outside their homes in the central parts of Zagreb, which sustained the most damage.
Plenkovic, the prime minister, said after an emergency meeting of Croatia’s top officials said that they had two parallel crisis which are contradicted each other. Croatian soldiers wearing masks and carrying shovels could be seen helping efforts to clear the damage on the streets of Zagreb.
Top officials toured the damaged areas as some citizens 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.
Plenkovic said that they will try to clear the streets as soon as possible. Stay outside their homes and keep distance. The interior Minister Bozinovic said the situation was complicated by the restrictive virus-related measures in place.