6.3 earthquake kills 7 in Croatia, leaves others missing

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PETRINJA, Croatia (AP) – A severe earthquake in Croatia destroyed buildings and killed at least seven people southwest of the capital on Tuesday, displacing many locals or scaring them to sleep inside as emergency teams searched for those still missing after dark.

The European Seismological Center for the Mediterranean said the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck 46 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of Zagreb just before 12:20 local time. It caused extensive damage in the hardest-hit town of Petrinja. The same area was hit by a magnitude 5.2 earthquake on Monday.

Officials said a 12-year-old girl died in Petrinja, a town of about 25,000 people. Six other people were killed in nearly destroyed villages near the city, according to public television HRT. At least 26 people have been hospitalized, including six seriously injured, officials said, adding that many more have still not been found.

In Petrinja, screams could be heard under the destroyed houses. A woman was found alive about four hours after the quake. Emergency crews used rescue dogs to search for survivors, while family members watched in desperation.

“My city has been completely destroyed. We have dead children, ”said the mayor of Petrinja, Darinko Dumbovic, in a statement released by HRT. “It’s like Hiroshima – half the city no longer exists.”

Firefighters worked to remove debris from a collapsed building that fell on a car. A man and a small boy were eventually rescued from the vehicle and transported to an ambulance.

The town was left without electricity or running water as officials scrambled to set up temporary housing for all displaced residents in need. Residents fearing another earthquake appeared ready to spend the night outside their homes.

Petrinja resident Marica Pavlovic said the earthquake was “worse than war”.

“It was horrible, a shock. You don’t know what to do, whether it’s missing or hiding somewhere, ”she told The Associated Press.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and other government ministers arrived in Petrinja after the earthquake.

“Most of the center of Petrinja is in a red zone, which means most of the buildings are not usable,” Plenkovic said.

He said the military has 500 barracks ready to house people, while others will be accommodated in hotels and other places nearby.

“No one should stay in the cold tonight,” the Prime Minister said.

Officials also visited a damaged hospital in the nearby town of Sisak, which was also badly affected. Plenkovic said patients will be evacuated in army helicopters and ambulances.

Health officials said a baby was delivered in a tent outside the hospital following the earthquake.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Twitter that she spoke to Plenkovic and instructed an envoy to go to Croatia as soon as possible.

As a Mediterranean country, Croatia is prone to earthquakes, but not to major earthquakes. The last strong earthquake struck in the 1990s when the picturesque village of Ston on the Adriatic coast was destroyed.

The Croatian army was deployed to the earthquake-affected region to assist in the rescue operation.

Croatian seismologist Kresimir Kuk described the earthquake as “extremely strong”, much stronger than one that hit Zagreb and its surroundings in the spring. He warned people not to enter the old, potentially fragile buildings and move to newer areas of the city because of the aftershocks.

In the capital, people ran into the streets in fear.

The earthquake was felt across the country and in neighboring Serbia, Bosnia and Slovenia. It was felt as far as …

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