6.3 earthquake kills 7 in Croatia, leaves others missing

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Soldiers inspect the remains of a building damaged in an earthquake, in Petrinja, Croatia, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. A strong earthquake has hit central Croatia and caused major damage and at least one death in a town southeast of the capital. (AP Photo)

ZAGREB – A strong earthquake in Croatia destroyed buildings and killed at least seven people Tuesday southwest of the capital, displacing scores of area residents or making them afraid to sleep indoors as emergency teams searched for those still missing by nightfall.

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

Officials said a 12-year-old girl died in Petrinja, a town of some 25,000 people. Another six people were killed in nearly destroyed villages close to the town, according to HRT state television. At least 26 people were hospitalized, six with serious injuries, officials said, adding that many more people remained unaccounted for.

In Petrinja, cries could be heard from underneath destroyed houses. One woman was found alive some four hours after the quake. Emergency teams used rescue dogs in the search 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.”

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

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

Petrinja resident Marica Pavlovic said the quake felt “worse than a war."