A powerful earthquake, the second in just over two weeks, has rocked Crete, prompting “a small tsunami” in the south of the Greek island and an evacuation alert.
The quake, which was felt as far away as Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, had a magnitude of 6.3, according to the Geodynamic Institute in Athens. There were no immediate reports of casualties or injuries although rockslides were widespread.
“The quake was felt all over the island,” Crete’s deputy regional governor, Yiannis Leondarakis, told the state-run broadcaster ERT. “And it did cause concern because we are still feeling the aftershocks from the previous quake.”
An hour after the underwater quake hit at 12:24pm local time, the Greek seismologist Gerassimos Papadopoulos released a graph depicting a tsunami off the island’s southern shores.
“A small tsunami is under way in southern Crete,” he wrote. “Keep away from coastal [areas].”
The quake was followed by aftershocks of 4.1 and 4.5 magnitude. Experts said the force of the quake – recorded at a sea depth of 2km, 14 miles east of the village of Zakros in eastern Crete – was intensified by its shallowness. Footage uploaded on social media showed people rushing out of their homes, office buildings and shops as it struck, with locals saying it jolted the island for at least 20 seconds.
Witnesses described the sea receding from the shoreline before the quake struck. “The sea was sucked in, the rocks appeared and then the quake happened,” Alexandra Papathanasaki, a local community head told the news portal Newsit, citing a witness who saw the sea withdrawing from the coast.
The civil protection ministry, which had ordered hundreds of tents to be erected for about 2,500 people left homeless when a 6.0 magnitude quake hit Crete on 27 September, immediately dispatched emergency disaster response units.
Teams of first responders were deployed to inspect buildings, archaeological sites and other monuments. Although residents were ordered to evacuate government buildings, damage was reportedly limited to the region of Sitia where a church collapsed and antiquities in the local museum were damaged.
Crete has been rattled by numerous aftershocks since the September quake, described as the largest to have struck on land in more than 60 years and “a bolt out of the blue” by seismologists.
Experts said they did not believe Tuesday’s tremor was related to the earlier quake, which caused extensive damage, killing one person, injuring scores and leaving countless homeless.