Central Croatia hit by second earthquake in just over 24 hours

Two earthquakes in two days cause death and serious damage in central Croatia.

Croatia has been hit by an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, causing widespread damage in a number of towns close to the epicentre, 50 kilometres southeast of the capital Zagreb.

Croatian officials said that at least seven people had died and dozens had been hospitalised in the town of Petrinja, the worst hit. There were also injuries in the nearby town of Sisak.

The earthquake, which according to the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences struck at a shallow depth of just 10 kilometres, was felt in all of Croatia’s neighbouring countries, including in the Hungarian capital Budapest, and as far as southern Germany.

It has been already described as the strongest earthquake in the country’s history. The last quake of similar magnitude was recorded in 1980.

“My town has been completely destroyed. We have dead children,” Darinko Dumbović, the mayor of Petrinja, said in a statement broadcast by Croatian TV station HRT. “This is like Hiroshima – half of the city no longer exists.”

“The city has been demolished, the city is no longer liveable,” he added. “We need help.”

The Croatian Mountain Rescue Service said that rescuers from across Croatia had travelled to Petrinja to help in the search and rescue efforts, while Croatia’s prime minister, Andrej Plenković, and other government ministers arrived in the town shortly after the earthquake occurred.

“Rescuers are searching through the rubble to see if anyone else is there,” said Mr Plenković. “The biggest part of central Petrinja is in a red zone, which means that most of the buildings are not usable.”

He said the army had 500 places ready in barracks to house people, while others would be accommodated in nearby hotels and other available places.

“No one must stay out in the cold tonight,” the prime minister added.

The earthquake, which struck at 12:19 on December 29, local time, follows a smaller quake in much the same location just 24 hours earlier, which damaged hundreds of buildings across the country.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU is “ready to help” Croatia.

“The Commission is in contact with Prime Minister Plenković and the Croatian authorities. We are following the situation closely and stand ready to help,” she said, adding that “I have asked Janez Lenarčič [European Commissioner for Crisis Management] to travel to Croatia as soon as the situation allows.”

A spokesperson for the Krško Nuclear Power Plant in neighbouring Slovenia confirmed that the authorities had decided to shut down the plant as a precautionary measure. The power plant is jointly owned by Slovenia and Croatia and located near their common border.

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