The Greek island of Crete was hit by an earthquake that killed one man and injured 20, while damaging houses and churches and causing rockslides near the country’s fourth-largest city.
The earthquake, which had a preliminary magnitude of at least 5.8, sent people fleeing to the streets of the city of Heraklion, and schools were evacuated. Repeated aftershocks described by witnesses as a sensation of small explosions shook the area, adding to the damage to villages near the center of the earthquake.
“The earthquake was strong and lasted a long time,” Heraklion mayor Vassilis Lambrinos told Antenna television.
The Geodynamic Institute of Athens said the earthquake struck at 9.17am (6.17am GMT), with an epicenter 246 kilometers (153 miles) south / southeast of the Greek capital, Athens.
Hospital officials said 20 people had been treated for injuries.
Domestic and international flights to Heraklion airport were unaffected by the earthquake, while the region’s hoteliers association said there was no serious damage to any hotel in the area, which includes many popular resorts.
Municipal construction vehicles helped clear the way for emergency services, picking up debris and tearing down the balcony of a badly damaged apartment block.
“This is not an unannounced event. We have seen activity in this region for several months. This was a strong earthquake, it was not under the sea but underground and it affected populated areas, ”said Gerasimos Papadopoulos, a seismologist, on Greece’s state broadcaster, ERT.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center and the United States Geological Survey gave the earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 6.0, with an epicenter 7 km (four miles) north of the town of Thrapsano. It is common for different seismological institutes to give different magnitudes for an earthquake.
Greece’s civil protection and climate crisis ministry said a man had died. It was pulled from the rubble of a partially collapsed church in the town of Arkalochori, near the epicenter, authorities said. Local media said the victim was a 65-year-old builder who was working inside the church when the roof collapsed on him.
Giannis Oikonomou, a government spokesman, said there were no reports of people missing or trapped under the rubble.
Efthimios Lekkas, a seismologist who heads Greece’s Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, said inspections of critical buildings such as schools and hospitals had already begun.
“We urge people who live in damaged old buildings to stay outdoors. An aftershock can cause a collapse, ”Lekkas said from Crete. “We are talking about structures built before 1970. Structures built after 1985 are built to a higher standard that can withstand the effect of an earthquake.”
Christos Stylianides, minister for climate crisis and civil protection, who traveled to Crete, said a state of emergency was being declared in the area. Local media said that hundreds of houses had been damaged, including more than half of the houses in Arkalochori.
Civil protection officials said tents were being set up for residents whose houses had been damaged, with capacity for up to 2,500 people.
The fire department said it was transporting 30 members of its disaster response units with sniffer dogs and specialized rescue equipment to Crete, while all of its disaster response units and fire department services in Crete were on general alert. .
Numerous aftershocks have been reported in the area, with the EMSC giving a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 for the two strongest.
Greece is in one of the most seismically active parts of the world, but strong earthquakes causing great loss of life or widespread damage are rare. In 1999, an earthquake near Athens killed 143 people.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism