“The cactus above my bed fell on my head, I grabbed onto the sliding mattress”, says Dorotea. “In ten minutes, everyone was outside with a half-dressed breathing mask”, continues the young woman. The tremors, including the strongest of magnitude 5.3, surprised the approximately 800,000 inhabitants of Zagreb at 6:24 am, Sunday March 22. It’s the strongest earthquake felt here in 140 years.
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Residents who left their homes in a hurry had to stay outside and wait for experts to assess the damage in the hardest-hit areas. However, Croatia is trying to contain the Covid-19 epidemic by means of containment measures: “Keep your distance”, beg the authorities. 235 people are currently being treated for this virus, including 102 in Zagreb. “We are managing two conflicting crisis situations”said Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.
Priorities for hospitals
Several areas of the capital have suffered water and electricity cuts. The city center with the old degraded buildings was the most affected. “At my brother’s house, the walls have all cracked. There was a lot of smoke when they came out, the entrance was blocked ”, testifies Dorotea. The cathedral, which was being renovated, lost one of its spiers.
Hospitals were particularly affected by the tremors. The young mothers rushed out of the maternity unit, babies in their arms, in pajamas and hospital coats. All patients have been evacuated until further notice and priority has been given to the evaluation and restoration of care facilities.
The Croatian army is deployed to secure buildings and clear the streets cluttered with rubble and vehicles destroyed by the falls of the old facades. There are currently no confirmed victims of the earthquake, but a teenager is in serious condition and several dozen people have been injured.
Between panic and solidarity
Blankets, tea and hot meals should be distributed, giving priority to young mothers, the elderly and the sick. Citizens organized collections.
“The situation is really not obvious”, comments Ileana. If she and her neighbors waited patiently at the foot of their building this Sunday morning while observing the instructions for distance, she also saw petrol stations taken by storm. “Those who can leave the city with their suitcases and their pets”, she says.
For Dario, a young student from the Faculty of Zagreb, “The most important thing is to stem the panic that always spreads in such situations”. But difficult to keep a cool head when he “ there is a strange feeling of worry in the air, as if we were living a twisted script from a Hollywood science fiction film “.