An earthquake has hit central Serbia during the night, leaving two people dead and injuring at least 50. According to the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre, the earthquake measured 5.3 on the Richter scale and its epicentre was 2 kilometres north of Kraljevo, which lies 150 kilometres southwest of Belgrade. The earthquake struck at 1.56 am European time, when most people were asleep in their homes. Even though the quake was shallow in depth (at 10 kilometres), it was felt throughout the region.
The Interior Minister, Ivica Dacic, confirmed that the two victims who died, were killed in their house after their ceiling fell in. Early reports from the city of Kraljevo indicate that many houses have been damaged and some of the older buildings are completely destroyed. The injured, with minor cuts and bruises, have been taken to the local hospital, which also suffered some damage. The basement of the hospital is reported to have been flooded by a burst water pipe.
Mr Dacic was taken by helicopter to visit the city of Kraljevo, which has a population of 70,000 people. He confirmed “damage to the area is big”. Debris litters the streets and around half the city is reported to be without communications, water or electricity. Emergency teams and police have been sent to the area and have begun rescue and salvage operations.
SOS Children has an SOS Children’s Village in Kraljevo. The director of the Village, Ms Vesna Mrakovic-Jokanovic, managed to speak briefly on the phone before the line went dead. Ms Mrakovic-Jokanovic was able to confirm that thankfully “all children, SOS mothers and co-workers in the village are safe and unharmed”. The director also said that “the SOS mothers were exceptionally brave and prevented panic among the children.” The director had time to report that there is only minor damage to the houses of the SOS Children's Village. However, some of the SOS workers homes have been more severely affected.
More information about the extent of the earthquake’s impact on the city will no doubt become available once reliable communications to the region have been restored. But for now, it looks as if the citizens of Kraljevo will be grateful that though the damage to property is extensive, the number of casualties from the quake wasn’t higher.
There is some damage on the roofs of a couple of family houses in the SOS Children’s Village in Kraljevo in addition to the damage on small household items the tremor caused. Unlike the rest of Kraljevo, the children’s village has water and electricity. Some of the SOS workers have lost their housing. As Serbian news agencies report, weaker shakes were felt all through the night and also during the day. In the town, schools are closed and the hospital works with limited capacity. Deputy regional director Damir Coric is expected to arrive in Kraljevo today for further assessments. It is likely that SOS Children’s Villages Serbia will start a small aid programme for the neighbourhood and for affected staff members.