Worst earthquake in Croatia since 1880 rattles Central Europe, leaving $6 billion worth of damage

 

December 29, 2020

 

Also felt in Rome, Budapest and Vienna, it was more powerful than the 1963 quake near the former Yugoslav town of Skopje


People clean debris after an earthquake, in Petrinja, Croatia December 29, 2020. PHOTO BY ANTONIO BRONIC /Reuters

 

By Jan Bratanic and Jasmina Kuzmanovic | Bloomberg News

 

Croatia suffered its strongest earthquake in 140 years — for the second time in 2020 — with the tremor devastating the city at its epicenter, killing at least one person and rattling Europeans as far away as Rome and Vienna.

The temblor, measured at 6.3 by the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre on Tuesday, was larger than both a 5.2 quake on Monday and a 5.3 tremor that caused $6 billion in damage when it hit the the capital, Zagreb, in March.

The earthquake brought down buildings near its epicenter in the town of Petrinja, where it killed a girl who was about 13 years of age, according to police. Most buildings there were damaged so badly they’re now unusable, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at the scene.

Authorities were evacuating the hospital in the nearby city of Sisak, and the tremor also damaged structures in Zagreb, where people left their homes to wait out any potential aftershocks.

“2020 has brought us tragedy after tragedy,” Plenkovic said in comments on N1 Television. The broadcaster reported at least 20 people had been hospitalized with injuries, with two in serious condition.

The disaster adds to an already difficult year for the Adriatic European Union member state, which is already repairing 20,000 buildings from the March quake while also tackling one of bloc’s worst surges in coronavirus cases and a record economic recession.

Also felt in Rome, Budapest and Vienna, it was more powerful than the 1963 quake near the former Yugoslav town of Skopje, now the capital of North Macedonia, that killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed 80% of the city.

“This is horrible,” President Zoran Milanovic said from Petrinja, where he was observing the damage with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. “Pure horror. The army is here, coming to help evacuate people.”

In Petrinja, a city of about 25,000 people that was almost completely destroyed in the bloody 1991-1995 breakup of Yugoslavia, video footage showed demolished houses and fallen roofs that resembled the damage from the war.

Deputy Prime Minister Davor Bozinovic said the government was lifting a ban on traveling between counties imposed earlier this month to stop a spike in new cases of Covid-19 so that people whose homes were destroyed could stay with relatives.

The quake also triggered the automatic shutdown of Slovenia’s Krsko nuclear power plant, with that country’s infrastructure minister saying initial checks showed no damage had occurred.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter that she had spoken with Plenkovic and the bloc was ready to provide support.

“We stand with Croatia,” she said.

 

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