One dead and 20 injured as Crete struck by earthquake

People were sent fleeing into the streets in Heraklion and schools were evacuated

A strong earthquake measuring 5.8 has shook Greece's largest island Crete, leaving one person dead when a church dome collapsed, authorities say. Video: Reuters

 

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 5.8 has struck the Greek island of Crete, killing one person and injuring 20 others.

Homes and churches were also damaged in the quake on Monday, which caused rock slides near the country’s fourth-largest city.

People were sent fleeing into the streets in the city of Heraklion and schools were evacuated.

Repeated aftershocks 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 Antenna television.

The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the quake struck at 9.17am local time (6.17am Irish time), with an epicentre 246km south-southeast of the Greek capital, Athens.

Hospital officials said 20 people had been treated for injuries, 10 of them receiving first aid.

“This is not an event that occurred without warning. We have seen activity in this region for several months,” seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos said on Greece’s state broadcaster ERT. “This was a strong earthquake, it was not under sea but under land and affecting populated areas.”

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) and the US Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 6.0, with an epicentre 7km north of the village of Thrapsano. The Athens Geodynamic Institute said it was 5.8.

It is common for different seismological institutes to give varying magnitudes for an earthquake in the initial hours and days after an event.

Casualties

Greece’s climate crisis and civil protection ministry said one man had been killed. He was pulled from the rubble of a partially collapsed church in the village of Arkalochori, close to the epicentre, authorities said.

Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said there were no reports of people missing or trapped under rubble.

Seismologist Efthimios Lekkas, who heads Greece’s Earthquake Planning and Protection Organisation, said inspections of critical buildings such as schools and hospitals had already begun.

“We are urging people who live in damaged older buildings to remain outdoors. One aftershock can cause a collapse,” Mr 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.”

Climate crisis and civil protection minister Christos Stylianides, who travelled to Crete, said a state of emergency was being declared in the area. Local media said hundreds of homes had been damaged, including more than half the houses in Arkalochori.

Civil protection officials said tents were being set up for residents whose homes had been damaged and there would be capacity for up to 2,500 people.

The fire department said it was flying 30 members of its disaster response units with sniffer dogs and specialised rescue equipment to Crete, while all its disaster response units and the fire department services on Crete were placed on general alert.

At least nine aftershocks also struck the area, with the EMSC giving a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 for the two strongest ones.

Local media in Crete reported damage, with collapsing walls of old stone buildings in villages near the epicentre of the quake on the eastern part of the island.

International and domestic flights to Heraklion airport were not 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. –AP