An earthquake has rocked central Croatia, killing at least six people, destroying buildings and sending panicked residents fleeing into rubble-covered streets in a town southeast of the capital.
Authorities said six people, including a 12-year-old girl, were killed and dozens injured in Tuesday’s quake, which also led to the precautionary closing down of the Krsko nuclear power plant in neighbouring Slovenia.
The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre said the magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit 46km southeast of Zagreb.
It caused widespread damage in the hardest-hit town of Petrinja. The same area was struck by a 5.2 quake on Monday.
Officials said a 12-year-old girl died in Petrinja, a town of some 25,000 people.
Another five people were killed in a nearly destroyed village close to the town, according to the state HRT television.
At least 20 people have been hospitalised, two with serious injuries, officials said, adding that many more are unaccounted for.
In Petrinja, cries could be heard from underneath destroyed houses, with one woman found alive four hours after the quake.
Emergency teams used rescue dogs while looking for survivors, while family members looked on in despair.
“My town has been completely destroyed. We have dead children,” Petrinja Mayor Darinko Dumbovic said in a statement broadcast by HRT.
“This is like Hiroshima – half of the city no longer exists.”
Marica Pavlovic, a resident, said the quake felt “worse than a war”.
“It was horrible, a shock. You don’t know what to do, whether to run out or hide somewhere,” she told The Associated Press.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and other government ministers arrived in Petrinja after the earthquake.
“The biggest part of central Petrinja is in a red zone, which means that most of the buildings are not usable,” Plenkovic said.
Officials later toured a damaged hospital in the nearby town of Sisak, which was also badly hit by the earthquake.
Health officials said a baby was delivered in a tent in front of the hospital in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Fallen bricks and dust littered the streets of Petrinja as emergency teams used rescue dogs to help search for survivors.
A woman was found alive some four hours after the earthquake, rescuers said.
The Croatian military has been deployed to help with the rescue operation.
In Zagreb, people ran out into the streets and parks in fear, with reports of some leaving the city, ignoring a travel ban imposed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The earthquake was felt throughout the country, in neighbouring Serbia, Bosnia and Slovenia and even as far away as Austria.
Authorities in Slovenia said the Krsko nuclear power plant was temporarily shut down following the earthquake.
The power plant is jointly owned by Slovenia and Croatia and located near their border.