Search efforts for survivors continue after a powerful earthquake killed at least six people in central Croatia, tearing down rooftops and piling rubble in the streets.
The tremors were felt as far afield as Vienna but the damage was concentrated in and around Petrinja, a town some 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Croatia’s capital Zagreb.
The “search for the survivors in the ruins continues”, the interior ministry said late Tuesday, as the European Union announced that more help was on its way.
Among the dead was a young girl in Petrinja and five people in a nearby village, Croatian police said, adding that around 20 people were injured, six of them “seriously”.
As rescue teams shovelled away bricks and debris, many in Petrinja were afraid to return home in fear of aftershocks.
“All the tiles in the bathroom are broken, all the dishes fell out,” Marica Pavlovic, a 72-year-old retired meat factory worker, told AFP of the damage to her apartment.
“Even if we wanted to, we can’t go back in, there is no electricity,” she said, huddled with others in a downtown park, wrapped in blankets.
Some people opted to spend the night in their cars or stay with relatives in other cities, while others were offered accommodation in a military barracks.
The European Union’s Crisis management chief, Janez Lenarcic, said the bloc was preparing aid for member state Croatia.
“At the moment, mostly winter tents, electric heaters, sleeping beds and sleeping bags are needed as well as housing containers”, Lenarcic wrote on Twitter, adding that he would personally visit Petrinja on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said containers would be brought in to house those whose homes were still risky.
“It is not safe to be here, that’s clear as day now,” Plenkovic said as he took stock of the wreckage in Petrinja, which is home to some 20,000 people.
While officials were assessing the scale of the destruction, Petrinja’s mayor Darinko Dumbovic said a kindergarten was among the buildings that collapsed from the force of the quake. Luckily, it was empty at the time.
“The city is actually a huge ruin,” Dumbovic told national radio earlier in the day. “We are saving people, we are saving lives. We have dead people, we have missing people, injured people… it is a catastrophe.”
The earthquake, which hit around 1130 GMT according to the US Geological Survey, rattled Petrinja and the surrounding area just a day after a smaller earthquake struck in the same vicinity, causing some damage to buildings.
Josip Horvat, a 44-year-old artist, said he was fixing a friend’s chimney that had been damaged the previous day when Tuesday’s tremor struck.
“I grabbed the gutter and I was just praying to God that it ends as soon as possible,” he told AFP.
Tuesday’s quake also shook the capital Zagreb, where panicked residents gathered in the streets as the shocks tore the tiles off roofs. The tremors reverberated across neighbouring countries, including Serbia and Slovenia, which as a precaution shut down the Krsko nuclear power plant it co-owns with Croatia.
Zagreb is still rebuilding the damage from a 5.3-magnitude quake that struck in March, the most powerful to hit the capital in decades.
The Balkan region lies on major fault lines and is often hit by earthquakes.