The earthquake hit the country of the Balkans at 12:20 local time (6:20 am ET) and its epicenter was 44 kilometers (27 miles) southeast of the capital Zagreb, according to the Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC). The government-owned Croatian news agency HINA reported earlier that the quake had a magnitude of 6.3.
The EMSC said it was the largest earthquake to hit Croatia so far this year, adding that it “could cause significant damage to short epicenter centers.”
Darinko Dumbović, Mayor of Petrinja, begged for immediate relief and said that “half of the city was destroyed,” HINA reported.
Dumbović held a press conference before the earthquake struck. According to the footage from the conference, there was a growing rumbling sound when the earthquake began, followed by muddy screams from the participants before the camera appeared to fall to the ground.
Photos of Petrinja showed a collapsed roof of a building and a car broken by falling debris.
“My city is completely devastated. We have a dead child. I can not describe it. It’s like Hiroshima,” Dumbović told CNN’s Croatian subsidiary N1 in an emotional plea for support.
“We need firefighters, we do not know what lies beneath the surface. A roof fell on a car, we need help,” he added.
In an earlier interview with N1, Dumbović described scenes of ‘panic’ in the aftermath of the quake. “There is panic, people are looking for their loved ones,” he said.
“We take people out of cars, we do not know if people were dead or injured. I heard that a nursery school collapsed, but fortunately there were no children, while the children were able to escape in another one,” he said. the mayor added.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the army would be deployed to support emergency services, while HINA reported that staff were already on the ground in Petrinja, helping residents clear up debris.
“It is a tragedy, but everyone is here and we will provide all possible assistance,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
The Arena sports hall in Zagreb, which has been transformed into an emergency care center for coronavirus patients, will also start taking coronavirus patients from the country of Sisak-Moslavina, which was affected by the earthquake, HINA reported.