ZADAR, Croatia – After working all night, combing the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors of a mighty one 6.4 magnitude earthquake As it shook central Croatia, Wednesday’s search and rescue operation focused on helping tens of thousands of people made homeless.
earthquake The second hits the region in two days And the most powerful in the country in 140 years, killing at least seven people, broken bones, concussion and other injuries.
Even as aid workers rushed to the area, powerful aftershocks shook the hardest-hit town of Petringa, as well as neighboring Sisak and Glina, about 30 miles from the capital, Zagreb.
Every time the earth shook, the few people able to return home flocked to the streets, nervously casting their eyes between the sky above and the unstable ground below.
After the fog burned early in the morning, today the scale of the devastation was revealed.
Ceilings slipped off homes, leaving mounds of rubble in the streets. Other homes collapsed. A video footage filmed by local media showed how the outer walls of one of them had collapsed, while the dining table inside remained virtually uninterrupted, set for lunch that had been cut down.
Some difficult villages have sprung up outside Petranga To be demolished, With only a handful of homes remaining.
« It’s not a good morning, » Darenko Dombovic, mayor of Petrinja, told Croatian state television in an early morning interview. It occurred shortly after two aftershocks – one at 4.8 degrees and the other 4.7 – that shook the bricks from the damaged buildings.
He said, « What has not fallen before is now falling from under the rubble. »
Prime Minister Andrej Blinkovic said it was clear that the city was no longer habitable.
And it seemed that the rapid reaction of many residents when the earthquake struck helped not exacerbate the number of victims.
Already on the brink of a precipice due to the smaller earthquake that struck on Monday, many people had the opportunity to ponder how to act when the larger earthquake struck.
As the ground began to shake on Tuesday, Tomislav Soknaic and his son Zeljko headed to the nearest entrance. The house started collapsing around them. When the shaking stops, their small town of Majske Poljane is reduced to a pile of rubble. Five of the seven people killed in the earthquake lived in the area.
“We waited to die together under that door,” Mr. Soknaic For government television. « Our dead body was on a wall that remained intact for as long as possible. »
The pair came out largely unscathed and grabbed a chain saw to release a horse trapped under a collapsing barn. The horse lived.
Mr. Soknaic and his son spent the night sleeping in a car, refusing to have another roof over their heads, fearing that the people around them would collapse again.
Even before this week’s disaster, the people of Petranga and the surrounding areas lived through turbulent times.
The city was one of the first cities to be torn apart by military conflict during the Balkan wars, which were overrun by the armed forces of what was then Yugoslavia in 1991. In the end, the siege exploded in a blaze that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Since then, Petinga has contracted.
Once one of the largest cities in Croatia, it has had citizens with a haemorrhage in recent years, with fewer than 25,000 people calling it home before the earthquake.
This is part of a larger demographic crisis that has shrunk Croatia’s total population of 4.2 million as many young people head to wealthier countries with more job opportunities. The World Bank The population is expected to fall to 3.46 million by 2050. The European Union estimates that 15 percent of working-age Croats live in other member states.
Mr Dembovic, the mayor, said recovering from the earthquake was also a struggle for the city’s survival.
The Croatian government allocated 120 million kunaAbout $ 19.5 million in aid so far, and it promised more will come. The European Union’s head of crisis management, Janez Linarjic, said the bloc is also preparing to help.
“At the present time, winter tents, electric heaters, sleeping beds and sleeping bags are often needed, in addition to housing containers,” Mr. Linarchic wrote on Twitter.
But recovery efforts have been complicated by the continuing battle to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.
While the government has moved quickly to lift the ban on travel between regions to allow aid workers and volunteers to travel to the region, it still has to contend with a virus that is increasing in the country as it is in most parts of Europe.
40 Covid-19 patients who have been hospitalized in the region have been transferred to Zagreb. But social distancing will be a huge challenge for the tens of thousands of people forced to live in hastily arranged shelters.
The nursing home residents have been evacuated to Zagreb and other nearby facilities. Some, however, remained tied to their destroyed homes. Vigilant locals, most of them elderly, congregate around campfires that swirl by the rubble of their homes, and watch out for looters.
There was a large influx of support from across the country, with humanitarian aid packages flowing into the area so rapidly that the Red Cross told the Croats to stop sending supplies.
The organization said they have too many eggs and do not have enough propane tanks, tents and generators. Nearby towns dependent on agriculture also needed caravans or trailers so that locals could stay with their livestock.
« At the moment we have to ask all these kind people and donors, we have to pause, » said Ivana Malovic of the local Red Cross. In an interview. « This will take a very long time. You see how destroyed the city. People will be hungry, and in five days and 15 days they will have needs, » she added, but thanked the donors for everything they had sent so far.
Thousands of people were housed in makeshift shelters at nearby sports squares and army facilities, but some residents refused to leave.
Dr Marina Lockner, head of the city’s Red Cross, said the older residents were the most likely to stay.
« They came to us during the night to keep warm in a tent, » she said.
Tuesday’s earthquake was the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Croatia using modern measurements, although the region experienced strong tremors earlier in its history.
Tomislav Vicket, Croatian seismologist, For government television That more aftershocks can be expected and caution is required in the recovery effort.
« All of these earthquakes hitting already damaged buildings could cause more damage or cause them to fall, » he said.
Joe Uruvitch reports in Zadar and Mark Santora in London.