Zagreb Earthquake Strikes Croatian Capital Amid COVID-19 Lockdown

Damage to the city center's buildings forced people from their homes and from hospitals during COVID-19 lockdown.

Sunrise over Zagreb, Croatia's capital.
Srdjan Stevanovic / Getty Images

Damage to the city center's buildings forced people from their homes and from hospitals during COVID-19 lockdown.

Croatia was struck by a 5.3-magnitude earthquake just after 6 a.m. on Sunday, with the epicenter four miles north of its capital, Zagreb, according to The Guardian. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković stated that it was the largest earthquake Zagreb has faced in 140 years. In addition to rubble falling from buildings, slabs of concrete crushing cars below and chimneys crumbling from atop buildings, one of the city’s most iconic buildings was also damaged. The cathedral, which was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1880, lost one of its two spires during the earthquake.

More than 50 aftershocks continued to shake the capital through Monday, March 23, the largest of which was a 3.7-magnitude tremor at noon, according to the Associated Press. One 15-year-old girl died from the injuries she sustained during the seismic event and at least another 27 people were injured. Two hundred and fifty homes have been reported as damaged, and at least 59 people are being housed in temporary shelters.

Mothers and newborn infants were evacuated and moved from the damaged maternity hospital to a new, safe location with the help of the Croatian army. More soldiers donned face masks and worked in the streets to remove rubble that fell from buildings, some of which date to the 19th century, as The Guardian reported.

“Earthquakes are dangerous but coronavirus is even more so,” said Vili Beroš, the minister of health, according to The Guardian.

The Guardian reported that there are a total of 235 current coronavirus cases in Croatia. Citizens were initially urged to leave their homes and to stay outside. Later, amid the dangers of the virus, Mayor Milan Bandic has urged people to return home, according to BBC.

“Eighty percent of Zagreb residents live in structures that have reinforced concrete structures,” said Bandic.

“We have two parallel crises that contradict each other,” said Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

“There are rules for when there is an earthquake, but when there is an earthquake at the same time when there is a global pandemic then it’s a much more complex situation,” Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović said.

According to The Guardian, Croatians had been told to avoid public areas such as parks and squares where citizens often gather. Much of Zagreb’s public transportation systems have also been closed in response to the virus. As the citizens of Zagreb continue to adapt as the situation unfolds and circumstances change, they are still being told to use caution and to practice safe social distancing.