1 dead, 20 injured after strong earthquake hits Greek island of Crete

Earthquake-damaged chapel on Greek island of Crete
A chapel on the Greek island of Crete is damaged in a strong earthquake Monday.
(Harry Nikos / Associated Press)

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 5.8 struck the island of Crete on Monday, killing one person, injuring 20 others, damaging homes and churches, and causing rock slides near Greece’s fourth-largest city.

The quake sent people fleeing into the streets in the city of Heraklion, and schools were evacuated. Repeated aftershocks — described by witnesses as feeling like small explosions — rattled the area, adding to damage in villages near the epicenter.

“The earthquake was strong and was long in duration,” Heraklion Mayor Vassilis Lambrinos told Antenna television.


The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the quake struck at 9:17 a.m. local time, with an epicenter 153 miles south-southeast of Athens.

Hospital officials said 20 people had been treated for injuries, 10 of them receiving first aid.

International and domestic flights to Heraklion airport weren’t affected by the quake, while the region’s hoteliers association said there was no serious damage to any hotels in the area, which includes many popular holiday resorts.

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Municipal construction vehicles helped clear a path for emergency services, scooping up rubble and knocking down a badly damaged apartment block balcony.

“This is not an event that occurred without warning. We have seen activity in this region for several months. This was a strong earthquake. It was not under sea but under land and affecting populated areas,” seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos said on Greek state broadcaster ERT.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center and the U.S. Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 6.0, with an epicenter four miles north of the village of Thrapsano. The Athens Geodynamic Institute said it was 5.8. It is common for different seismological institutes to give varying magnitudes for an earthquake in the initial hours and days after an event.

Greece’s Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry said one man had been killed. He was pulled from the rubble of a partially collapsed church in the village of Arkalochori, very close to the epicenter, authorities said.

“It appears that until now we don’t have fellow citizens trapped,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said at a news briefing about three hours after the quake.

Seismologist Efthimios Lekkas, who heads Greece’s Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, said inspections of critical buildings such as schools and hospitals had already begun.

“We are urging people who live in damaged older buildings to remain outdoors. One aftershock can cause a collapse,” Lekkas said from Crete. “We are talking about structures built before 1970. Structures built after 1985 are built to a higher standard that can withstand the effect of an earthquake.”

Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, who traveled to Crete, said measures would be taken for those who couldn’t spend the night in their homes, potentially including providing rooms in hotels. Local media said hundreds of homes had been damaged.

Officials said tents were being set up for residents whose homes had been damaged, and there would be capacity for up to 2,500 people.

At least nine aftershocks also struck the area, with the EMSC giving a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 for the two strongest ones.