23 March 2020 10:32
A strong earthquake in Croatia on Sunday caused panic, evacuations and damage- all amid a partial coronavirus lockdown. A 15-year-old was reported to be in critical condition and 16 other people were injured, authorities said. The European seismological agency EMSC said the 5.3 earthquake struck a wide area north of the capital, Zagreb, at 6.23am (0523 GMT). The epicentre was 7 kilometres (4 miles) north of Zagreb at a depth of 10 kilometres (6 miles). Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the earthquake was the biggest in Zagreb in the last 140 years.
Many buildings cracked and walls and rooftops were damaged. Streets were littered with debris. Concrete slabs fell on cars and chimneys landed in front of entrances. Footage from the scene showed mothers dressed in nightgowns hugging their newborn babies in a parking lot as they evacuated a damaged maternity hospital amid freezing temperatures. Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the country was dealing with two crises. (Darko Bandic/AP) The women, newborn babies and incubators were being moved to a new location with the help of the army. Zagreb's iconic cathedral was also damaged, with the top of one of its two spires collapsing. Power was cut as people ran out of their homes. Several fires were also reported. Residents shared photos of belongings falling off shelves, broken bottles and glass inside homes. Officials first said a 15-year-old was killed, but doctors later said that she was in a critical condition and that they were fighting to save her life. They gave no immediate details on the extent of other injuries. The earthquake struck amid a partial lockdown of the capital because of the spread of the coronavirus. People were told to avoid public areas, such as parks and public squares, but had little choice as they fled their residences. Up to five people are allowed to be together while keeping a distance. Health Minister Vili Beros warned people to keep a two metre "social distance" in an attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19. There are 235 coronavirus cases confirmed so far in Croatia. One of the damaged spires, left, of Zagreb's iconic cathedral (Darko Bandic/AP) "Earthquakes are dangerous, but coronavirus is even more so," Mr Beros said. Some of Zagreb residents disagreed. Meanwhile prime minister Andrej Plenkovic urged citizens to remain calm and return to their homes where possible. "We have two parallel crises that contradict each other," Mr Plenkovic said after an emergency meeting of Croatia's top officials. Croatian soldiers wearing masks and carrying shovels could be seen helping efforts to clear the damage on the streets of Zagreb. Top officials toured the damaged areas as some citizens criticised city authorities over the poor states of buildings in the old part of the city, some of which date to the 19th century. Interior minister Davor Bozinovic said the situation was complicated by the restrictive virus-related measures in place. "We face two simultaneous crises, one is unpredictable and the other is invisible," Mr Bozinovic said. "There are rules for when there is an earthquake, but when there is an earthquake at the same time when there is a global pandemic, then it's a much more complex situation," he said.