A strong earthquake measuring 5.8 shook Greece’s largest island Crete on Monday and one person was killed when a church dome collapsed, authorities said.

The quake, which sent people out of their homes and public buildings and caused considerable damage, was described by a Greek seismologist, Efthymios Lekkas, as a “thunderbolt” with strong aftershocks.

  • The 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck the island at 9:17 am local time
  • At least one person has been killed by falling debris according to Greek media, with several others thought to be trapped in collapsed buildings
  • The quake sent people rushing into the streets and triggered school evacuations
  • Several aftershocks were also registered, some as strong as magnitude 4.8

People evacuated as tremor shakes buildings on Greek island

A man died when the dome of a church in the town of Arkalochori caved in during renovation works, a police official said. Civil protection authorities said nine people were injured in the quake, which damaged many buildings.

The tremor prompted many people in Crete’s main city Heraklion to rush outdoors. Schoolchildren were told to leave their classrooms, gathering in schoolyards and town squares.

The mayor of Arkalohori village told Skai TV two churches and other buildings at the village had been damaged and two people were trapped, one in a church when the dome collapsed during maintenance work, and another in a home.

Nine aftershocks

Repeated aftershocks were rattling the area, and local media reported damage in villages near the epicenter, according to the Associated Press.

At least nine aftershocks also struck the area, with the EMSC giving a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 for the two strongest ones.

Residents of the city of Heraklion rushed out into the streets. Local media in Crete reported damage, with collapsing walls of old stone buildings in villages near the epicenter of the temblor on the eastern part of the island.

Rescue operations are now underway in Arkalohori, which appears to be the worst hit by the quake, as well as the village of Patsideros. 

Authorities have deployed helicopters to assess the extent of the damage and direct rescue teams, and have already received reports of significant damage to water supply networks as well as buildings.

Social media users respond to the quake

Twitter user Yorgos Saslis said: “we REALLY FELT this one”, nothing that everything was okay where he was, save for a “few shattered picture frames”.

Pete Goodwin, who was preparing to fly back to Britain, said on Twitter: “Just experienced a very strong earth tremor/earthquake in Crete!”

Others on Twitter reported having felt tremors as far away as Santorini and Analipsi.

The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the quake’s magnitude reached 5.8 and its epicentre was 23 kilometres (14 miles) northwest of Arvi in southeastern Crete, at a depth of 10 km.

Earlier, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) said the earthquake measured 6.5, while the United States Geological Survey (USGS) put it at 6.0.