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Strong quake hits near Greek capital of Athens, sparks fear

Updated July 19, 2019 - 9:19 am

ATHENS, Greece — A strong earthquake hit Friday near the Greek capital of Athens, causing residents to run into the streets in fear and firefighters to check for people trapped in elevators.

The Athens Institute of Geodynamics gave the earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 but the U.S. Geological Survey gave it a preliminary magnitude of 5.3. The Athens Institute says the quake struck at 2:13 p.m. local time about 26 kilometers (13.7 miles) north of Athens.

The quake sparked limited power cuts and communication problems around Athens and the fire brigade reported receiving calls about people being trapped in elevators. The shock was caught live in the studios of state broadcaster ERT.

The Civil Protection Authority said there was no immediate word on injuries or damages, but that police and volunteers north of the capital were carrying out searches for possible damage.

The most powerful quake to hit the Greek capital in the last 20 years came in 1999, when a temblor of magnitude 6.0 caused extensive damage and killed more than 140 people.

Gerasimos Papadopoulos, the senior seismologist at the Geodynamics Institute said Friday’s quake was felt across southern Greece.

“It had a very shallow depth and that’s why it was felt so strongly,” he said. “It is too early to say whether this was the main earthquake, but there have been aftershocks of magnitude 3.5, 2.5 and 3.2 and that is encouraging. But we need more time and data to have a clear picture.”

Earthquakes are common in Greece and neighboring Turkey.

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