Athens: An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 5.8 struck the Greek island of Crete on Monday, killing one person and injuring 20 others, while damaging homes and churches and causing rock slides near the country’s fourth-largest city.
The quake sent people fleeing into the streets in the capital Heraklion, and schools were evacuated. Repeated aftershocks – described by witnesses as feeling like small explosions – rattled the area, adding to damage in villages near the epicentre.
“The earthquake was strong and was long in duration,” Heraklion mayor Vassilis Lambrinos told private Antenna television.
The Athens Geodynamic Institute, which gave the 5.8 magnitude, said the quake struck at 9.17am with an epicentre 246 kilometres south south-east of the Greek capital, Athens.
Hospital officials said 20 people had been treated for injuries, 10 of them receiving first aid.
International and domestic flights to Heraklion airport weren’t affected by the quake, while the region’s hoteliers association said there was no serious damage to any hotels in the area, which includes many popular holiday resorts.
Municipal construction vehicles helped clear a path for the emergency services, scooping up rubble and knocking down a badly damaged apartment block balcony.
“This is not an event that occurred without warning. We have seen activity in this region for several months. This was a strong earthquake, it was not under sea but under land and affecting populated areas,” seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos said on Greece’s state broadcaster ERT.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre and the US Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude at 6.0, with an epicentre seven kilometres north of the village of Thrapsano. It is common for different seismological institutes to give varying magnitudes for an earthquake in the initial hours and days after an event.