Two dead as earthquake strikes off western coast of Greece

A Greek Orthodox church is seen destroyed after the morning earthquake. Picture: AP
A Greek Orthodox church is seen destroyed after the morning earthquake. Picture: AP
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An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 6.1 struck off the west coast of Greece yesterday, killing two people and causing extensive damage to infrastructure and buildings on Lefkada and nearby Ionian Sea islands.

The quake was felt across western Greece, with people on Lefkada and the nearby Ionian Sea island of Kefalonia rushing out onto the streets. In a video uploaded online, two high rise buildings can be seen wobbling back and forth as the earthquake rattles the island.

The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the undersea quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 and occurred at 9:10am local time off Greece’s western mainland, about 186 miles west of Athens. The US Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude at 6.5.

Greek authorities were struggling to assess the damage, their efforts hampered by landslides that blocked Lefkada’s network of narrow, mountainous roads.

The fire department said an 82-year-old woman was killed in the mountain village of Athani when a wall collapsed on her.

Nikos Rombotis, 61, owner of a gift shop in the village, said: “There is a dead woman, the stable fell over her and we are still trying to recover her body under the rubble.”

And another woman died in her home in the village of Ponti Vassilikis when a boulder loosened by the earthquake fell onto her house, the island’s deputy mayor, Christos Kaliforis, told a local radio station.

Four people were hospitalised with non-life-threatening injuries.

State ERT TV said part of the harbour of Vassiliki in the worst-hit south-western part of the island was submerged in the sea.

Schools were shut on both Lefkada and Kefalonia as a precaution.

Authorities said several houses were badly damaged on Kefalonia and on another nearby island, Ithaca.

Aftershocks were also hitting the area – including one with a 5.2 magnitude more than an hour after the main quake – and Ionian Islands regional governor Theodoros Galiatsatos called on residents to avoid any structures that appeared damaged until authorities could assess their safety.

Earthquakes are common in Greece, which is one of the world’s most seismically active areas, though serious injuries and deaths are rare. The Ionian is particularly active, and new buildings on the area’s islands are constructed to strict anti-seismic standards.

Kefalonia was struck by a series of strong earthquakes in January 2014, though there were no fatalities.

Catastrophic quakes in 1953 flattened nearly all the island’s structures, killing hundreds of people.