Crete earthquake: One dead and 20 injured after strong tremor hits Greek island

Firefighters stand next to a demolished Greek Orthodox church of Profitis. Credit: AP

A strong earthquake has hit the popular tourist island of Crete, killing one person and injuring more than 20 others.

The tremor has been given a preliminary magnitude of at least 5.8 and caused damage to churches and homes near Greece's fourth largest city.

The quake sent people fleeing into the streets in the city of Heraklion, and schools were evacuated.

Repeated aftershocks rattled the area, adding to damage in villages near the epicentre.

Residents pass next to a damaged Greek Orthodox chapel Credit: AP

“The earthquake was strong and was long in duration,” Heraklion mayor Vassilis Lambrinos told private Antenna television. “We have requested that schools are evacuated. The children are out in the playgrounds.”

The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the quake struck at 9.17 am (6.17 am UK time) and said the quake had a magnitude of 5.8.

International and domestic flights to Heraklion airport weren’t affected by the quake, while the region’s hoteliers association said there was no serious damage to any hotels in the area, which includes many popular holiday resorts.

“This is not an event that occurred without warning. We have seen activity in this region for several months. This was a strong earthquake, it was not under sea but under land and affecting populated areas,” seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos said on Greece’s state broadcaster ERT.

A damaged building in the village of Arkalochori Credit: AP

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center and the US Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 6.0, with an epicentre four miles north of the village of Thrapsano.

Greece’s Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry said that according to reports from local authorities, one person had been killed and a further nine people suffered injuries.

The fire department said it was flying 30 members of its disaster response units with sniffer dogs and specialised rescue equipment to Crete, while all its disaster response units and the fire department services on Crete were placed on general alert.