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Desperate rescue as European city 'demolished' by earthquake

Desperate rescue as European city 'demolished' by earthquake
At least six people have died and dozens are injured following a strong earthquake that hit central Croatia, causing major damage to homes and other buildings in a town southeast of the capital.
A young girl is among the dead and at least 26 people have been injured, six seriously.
The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre said a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit 46km southeast of Zagreb on Tuesday (about 11.30pm AEDT).
READ MOREChild pulled from rubble in 'miracle' rescue three days after earthquake
A view of remains of a car covered by debris and buildings damaged in an earthquake in Petrinja, Croatia, on Tuesday, December 29. (AP)
Initial reports said the earthquake caused wide damage, collapsing roofs, building facades and even some entire buildings.
In dramatic footage captured by N1, Petrinja mayor Darinko Dumbovic was giving a press conference on camera about the previous day's smaller earthquake when Tuesday's quake struck.
In the video, a rumbling sound can be heard as the earthquake begins, followed by muddled shrieks from the attendees. The camera then appears to fall to the ground.
A rescuer walks past a building damaged in an earthquake in Petrinja, Croatia, Tuesday, December 29, 2020. (AP)
A street is covered by debris from buildings damaged in an earthquake in Petrinja, Croatia. (AP)
In an earlier interview with N1, Mr Dumbović described scenes of "panic" in the aftermath of the tremor.
"We are pulling people out of cars, we don't know if people have died or have been injured. I heard a kindergarten has collapsed but luckily there weren't any children there, while in another one the children were able to escape," the mayor said.
The same area was struck by a 5.2 quake on Monday and several smaller aftershocks were felt Tuesday.
Officials said a 12-year-old girl died in Petrinja, a town of some 25,000 people southeast of the capital that was hit hardest by the earthquake, and five men in the village of Majske Poljane.
"The centre of Petrinja as it used to be no longer exists," Croatia's state HRT television said in its report.
A view of buildings damaged in an earthquake in Petrinja, Croatia. (AP)
"One girl died and there are injuries and people inside collapsed buildings."
"My town has been completely destroyed. We have dead children," Petrinja Mayor Darinko Dumbovic said in a statement broadcast by HRT TV.
"This is like Hiroshima — half of the city no longer exists."
People walk through the rubble from buildings damaged in an earthquake in Petrinja, Croatia. (AP)
"The city has been demolished, the city is no longer liveable," he said. "We need help."
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and other government ministers arrived in Petrinja after the earthquake.
"They are searching through the rubble to see if there is anyone else there,'' Mr Plenkovic said.
"The biggest part of central Petrinja is in a red zone, which means that most of the buildings are not usable."
He said the army has 500 places ready in barracks to house people, while others will be accommodated in nearby hotels and other available places.
"No one must stay out in the cold tonight," the prime minister said.
"We are doing everything we can to help the citizens of Petrinja and surrounding areas in this dramatic and tragic situation," Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said in a tweet.
"The destructive earthquake has taken human lives, destroyed homes, and we deeply sympathise with every person and every family that has been harmed."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter that she spoke with Plenkovic and instructed an envoy to travel to Croatia as soon as possible.
Petrinja Mayor Darinko Dumbovic told CNN affiliate N1 that the town of nearly 25,000 residents was "going through hell" after the tremor, and had no running water or electricity. He has requested emergency aid.
"I feel that both its center and its soul have been destroyed," Mr Dumbovic said. "We have no electricity, no water. Everything is broken. We are here in darkness, in ruin, searching for people," he added.
As a Mediterranean country, Croatia is prone to earthquakes, but not big ones.
The last strong quake struck in the 1990's when the picturesque Adriatic coast village of Ston was destroyed.
Regional TV channel N1 reported live Tuesday from Petrinja that a collapsed building had fallen on a car.
The footage showed firefighters trying to remove the debris to reach the car, which was buried underneath.
A man and a small boy eventually were rescued from the car and carried into an ambulance.
Residents remove debris from a street from a building damaged in an earthquake, in Petrinja, Croatia. (AP)
People walk through debris from buildings damaged in an earthquake in Petrinja, Croatia. (AP)
Fallen bricks and dust littered the streets, and many houses were completely destroyed. The Croatian military was deployed in Petrinja to help with the rescue operation.
Croatian seismologist Kresimir Kuk described the earthquake as "extremely strong," far stronger than another one that hit Zagreb and nearby areas in the spring.
He warned people to keep out of potentially shaky, old buildings and to move to the newer areas of the city because of the aftershocks.
In the capital, people ran out into the streets and parks in fear.
Many reportedly were leaving Zagreb, ignoring a travel ban imposed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Residents gather outside after an earthquake, at a square in downtown Zagreb, Croatia on Tuesday, December 29, 2020. (AP)
Residents gather outside after an earthquake at a square in downtown Zagreb, Croatia. (AP)
The earthquake was felt throughout the country and in neighbouring Serbia, Bosnia and Slovenia. It even was felt as far away as Graz in southern Austria, the Austria Press Agency reported.
Authorities in Slovenia said the Krsko nuclear power plant was temporarily shut down following the earthquake. The power plant is jointly owned by Slovenia and Croatia and located near their border.
- Reported with CNN and Associated Press