Island rattled by earthquakes

Last updated 18:48 03/02/2014

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of between 5.7 and 6.1 hit the western Greek island of Kefalonia before dawn Monday (local time), sending panicked residents into the streets just over a week after a similar quake damaged hundreds of buildings across the island.

Kefalonia Mayor Alexandros Parisis told Greek radio that the port at the island's second largest town of Lixouri, the closest to the epicenter, had been damaged and that minor injuries had been reported. He did not immediately have any further details.

Deputy regional governor Antonis Kouris said there had been no reports so far of any serious injuries or home collapses.

Authorities did not immediately have a clear picture of the situation in outlying villages on the island's mountains, and were expecting more information after first light.

''This is a critical time, people must be careful and remain calm,'' Kouris said.

The Athens Geodynamic Institute registered the pre-dawn quake, which struck just after 5 am local time with a magnitude of 5.7 and an epicenter 12 kilometres northwest of the island's capital of Argostoli.

The US Geological Survey registered a 6.1-magnitude. It is common for institutes to register different figures and to revise their initial measurements.

Earthquakes have been rattling the island constantly for the past week, after a 5.9-magnitude temblor struck the area on January 26, damaging homes and slightly injuring seven people.

Since then, thousands of residents have been spending nights with relatives or in ships sent for that reason. The intense seismic activity has reawakened memories of the devastating 1953 quakes on Kefalonia and neighbouring Zakinthos, when a 7.2-magnitude temblor struck three days after a 6.4 quake, killing hundreds, injuring thousands and destroying nearly all the buildings on the islands.

Seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos told Greece's Skai television that Monday's earthquake appeared to be a strong aftershock to the Jan. 26 temblor, rather than an entirely unrelated quake.

''Initial data indicates it's the strongest aftershock until now. It's more to the west than the previous quakes, but the epicenter is still under the island,'' Papadopoulos said.

Monday's quake was felt across parts of the western Greek mainland and as far away as the Greek capital, Athens, nearly 300 kilometres to the west.

Kefalonia's mayor and seismologists urged people on the island to leave their houses temporarily.

Christos Kyrakatos, a resident of one of Kefalonia's villages, told Greek television that at least one person in his village had been taken away by ambulance after being injured by falling objects in his home.

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The power and water supply to the area had been cut, and residents who had fled their homes also had to cope with intense bad weather, with strong rain and low temperatures.

- AP

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