Strong quake near Greek capital Athens sparks fear

Strong but shallow earthquake jolts Athens, knocking out phone and cellphone service and sending worried residents rushing into the streets. No immediate reports of damage or injuries so far.

People are seen at Syntagma Square following the evacuation of nearby buildings after an earthquake in Athens, Greece. July 19, 2019. (Reuters)

A strong earthquake hit near the Greek capital of Athens on Friday, causing residents to run into the streets in fear and firefighters to check for people trapped in elevators.

The Athens Institute of Geodynamics gave the earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 but the US Geological Survey gave it a preliminary magnitude of 5.3.

The Athens Institute said the quake struck at 1113 GMT (2:13 pm local time) about 26 kilometres north of Athens.

‘People must remain calm’

The quake sparked limited power cuts and communication problems around Athens and the fire brigade reported receiving calls about people being trapped in elevators.

The shock was caught live in the studios of state broadcaster ERT.

The fire department rescued over a dozen people trapped in elevators in the capital, state broadcaster ERT said.

“People must remain calm,” Efthymios Lekkas, head of the state anti-quake protection agency, said.

“There is no reason for concern. The capital’s buildings are built to withstand a much stronger earthquake,” he told ERT.

The Civil Protection Authority said there was no immediate word on injuries or damages, but that police and volunteers north of the capital were carrying out searches for possible damage.

Major fault lines

The most powerful quake to hit the Greek capital in the last 20 years came in 1999 when a temblor of magnitude 6.0 caused extensive damage and killed more than 140 people.

Gerasimos Papadopoulos, the senior seismologist at the Geodynamics Institute said Friday’s quake was felt across southern Greece.

“It had a very shallow depth and that’s why it was felt so strongly,” he said.

“It is too early to say whether this was the main earthquake, but there have been aftershocks of magnitude 3.5, 2.5 and 3.2 and that is encouraging. But we need more time and data to have a clear picture.”

Earthquakes are common in Greece and neighbouring Turkey.

Greece lies on major fault lines and is regularly hit by earthquakes, but they rarely cause casualties.

In July 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake killed two people on the island of Kos in the Aegean and caused significant damage.

Source: TRT World

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