A powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.4 has struck the early hours of this Friday in southwest Greece, where it has affected the Ionian island of Zante.
The mayor of the capital of Zakynthos, Pavlos Kolokotsas, has assured this morning that the situation is under control, that there are no serious injuries, but “material damage to buildings and homes”, mainly caused by landslides. At least three people have been transferred to the hospital, two of them with minor injuries, according to a Greek Civil Protection spokesman.
According to the Institute of Geodesy of the Athens Observatory, the earthquake occurred at 1.54 local time (10.54 GMT, two more hours in mainland Spain) and its epicenter was located at sea, 44 kilometers southwest of Zante (also called Zacinto , of 44.00 inhabitants), 133 kilometers from Patras (Peloponnese) and 280 from Athens. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) previously reported a magnitude of 6.8 and initially of 7.
The earthquake has caused landslides and damage to the electricity grid, but the power supply has been restored throughout the island.
Many residents of Zakynthos have spent the night outdoors and Mayor Kolokotsas has indicated that, as a precautionary measure, all schools and nurseries on the island, as well as public services, will be closed on Friday.
In the port of Zante, the capital of this small island, there was a detachment of the dock that has not caused damage to the boats but was forced to remove all parked vehicles from the area.
The main damages have been recorded in the coastal towns of Laganas and Ayios Sostis, which are close to the epicenter. Among the affected buildings, there is a 15th-century monastery in the Estrófades area. The earthquake could be felt in the capital, and in Italy, Malta, Albania and Libya.
The president of the seismic planning agency, Efthymios Lekkas, has considered that the damage on the island has been “extremely limited” because the epicenter is at sea.
Had it been closer to the island, “we would have great problems,” he added. Lekkas has urged residents not to enter old houses or buildings in danger of collapse. In fact, Zante is a city of new construction having been destroyed by an earthquake in 1953.
The earthquake has been relatively superficial at a depth of 16.5 kilometers, which is why it has been felt with greater intensity. After the initial shake, the most powerful, an hour after a replication of magnitude 5.2 has occurred in a nearby area, according to the USGS.
On this second occasion, the hypocentre has been even less profound: only 10 kilometers underwater. Afterward, it has had dozens of replicas with a maximum magnitude of 5.4.
Tremors are not a rarity in Greece, a country near the confluence of two tectonic plates. Last July, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake claimed the lives of two people on the island of Kos, in the Aegean Sea, southeast of Greece.