Just ten kilometers below the surface of the earth, it began to crunch on Tuesday afternoon. A severe earthquake shook Croatia with a force of 6.4 on the Richter scale and shook houses in neighboring countries. The tremor could even still be felt in Rosenheim in Upper Bavaria.
About an hour’s drive southeast of Zagreb is the epicenter of this strongest earthquake in the region for more than 140 years. While soldiers and crisis teams from the Croatian Red Cross are looking for survivors there and looking after injured and homeless people, residents in the capital have now returned to their homes.
Vid Hribar is 27 years old and grew up in Zagreb. He lives with his fiancée in an apartment near the city center. When it began to “rock” at half past twelve, as he said on the phone, the couple was at home and wanted to drink coffee: “At first it was a little rocking, then it got stronger and stronger and our things flew through the apartment.”
The couple immediately leaned against the supporting wall of the apartment and waited for the twenty seconds – that’s about how long the quake lasted, remembers Hribar. Then the two fled with their dog via the stairs outside, where the whole city came together. “Everyone, really everyone, was outside, the fire brigade, the ambulance, the police. Many people cried, screamed around in panic and tried desperately to reach their loved ones.” Again and again the cellular network collapsed, which was shortly afterwards read in Croatian media reports.
“Sooner or later there will be a violent earthquake in Zagreb, we all knew that”
Hribar and his family are doing well at the moment, “Thank God,” he emphasizes. Only a bit of the facade was crumbling off the house, with the exception of the elevator, almost nothing was damaged. “The building was built in the 1960s, when the population was already becoming more aware of the more powerful earthquakes,” he says.
Even at school, they were repeatedly prepared for this: “I can well remember that as a child I was always told: Sooner or later there will be a violent earthquake in Zagreb, we all knew that.” In the city, people who live in older houses are now particularly affected.
Even more, however, it is the residents of the city of Petrinja, near which the epicenter of the earthquake lies. At least seven people are killed there and in the surrounding villages. “This town in particular, which is not in good economic shape anyway,” regrets Hribar.
For him, as for many other residents of Zagreb, the tremor is shocking, but “not surprising”. For two hours he walked through the city with his fiancée to protect himself from a possible aftershock. “Now we’re home and safe. And hopefully it stays that way.”