At least one dead as powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattles Greek island of Crete


A 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook the island of Crete in southern Greece on Monday morning, damaging several buildings and trapping citizens in collapsed structures with at least one person reported dead.

The epicentre of the quake, which hit at 9:17am local time (6:17am GMT), was 14 miles northwest of Arvi – roughly 153 miles southeast of Athens – and six miles deep, according to the Athens Geodynamic Institute. 

One person who was working in a church in the island’s central village of Arkalochori was killed by falling debris according to Greek channel ERT, with several others thought to be trapped in collapsed buildings. 

The quake sent citizens rushing out into the streets to avoid being trapped, and triggered the evacuation of schools. 

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

Several aftershocks also struck the area, with the EMSC giving a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 for the strongest one. 

‘It’s an earthquake that we did not expect, for the moment there are aftershocks of 4.5’, said seismologist Efthymis Lekkas, who described the surprise quake as a ‘thunderbolt’. 

Greece is located on a number of fault lines, and is sporadically hit by earthquakes.

A damaged Greek Orthodox chapel after a strong earthquake in Arkalochori village in central Crete. At least one person has been killed by falling debris while rescue workers seek to recover more from the rubble

One person who was working in a church in the island's central village of Arkalochori was killed when the dome, which was undergoing renovations, caved in according to Greek channel ERT

One person who was working in a church in the island’s central village of Arkalochori was killed when the dome, which was undergoing renovations, caved in according to Greek channel ERT

Several aftershocks also struck the area, with the EMSC giving a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 for the strongest one

Firefighters look for people in the rubble of a demolished church in Arkalochori. Two people are thought to be trapped under the rubble in the village

Firefighters look for people in the rubble of a demolished church in Arkalochori. Two people are thought to be trapped under the rubble in the village

A man stands outside a damaged building after a strong earthquake in Arkalochori village. The village in central Crete was among the worst hit areas with reports of considerable damage to modern and old structures alike

A man stands outside a damaged building after a strong earthquake in Arkalochori village. The village in central Crete was among the worst hit areas with reports of considerable damage to modern and old structures alike

Several structures in Heraklion were damaged by the 6.5 magnitude quake, while reports from villages in central Crete say several people are trapped in collapsed buildings

Several structures in Heraklion were damaged by the 6.5 magnitude quake, while reports from villages in central Crete say several people are trapped in collapsed buildings

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook the island of Crete in southern Greece on Monday morning, damaging several buildings and trapping citizens in collapsed structures

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook the island of Crete in southern Greece on Monday morning, damaging several buildings and trapping citizens in collapsed structures

Local media in Crete has reported considerable damage, with collapsing walls of old stone buildings, churches, and temples in villages near the epicentre of the quake on the eastern part of the island.  

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

According to the mayor of Minoa Pediados, Manolis Fraggakis, the damage in Arkalochori and the surrounding areas is significant and has affected modern buildings as well as older structures, pillars and temples.

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.

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. 

The minister for civil protection Christos Stylianides is expected to visit the site later on Monday according to ERT, and will be accompanied by several experts to assess the damage and organise repairs.

Earlier today, the mayor of Arkalochori village at the centre of the island told Skai TV that several buildings had been damaged and two people were trapped, one in a church when the dome collapsed during maintenance work, and another in a home.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Crete’s coastal capital Heraklion, Vassilis Lambrinos, told Skai TV that there were no immediate reports from emergency services of any injuries or severe damage in his city, but confirmed all schools have been evacuated as authorities check buildings for structural damage. 

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. 

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

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

A local reacts following an earthquake in Heraklion on the island of Crete, Greece, September 27, 2021. The earthquake sent residents flocking into the streets to avoid being trapped in their homes, while all schools have been evacuated

A local reacts following an earthquake in Heraklion on the island of Crete, Greece, September 27, 2021. The earthquake sent residents flocking into the streets to avoid being trapped in their homes, while all schools have been evacuated

The quake sent citizens rushing out into the streets and triggered the evacuation of schools

The quake sent citizens rushing out into the streets and triggered the evacuation of schools

No deaths or injuries have been reported in Crete's capital city of Heraklion but evacuations of buildings and schools did take place

No deaths or injuries have been reported in Crete’s capital city of Heraklion but evacuations of buildings and schools did take place

The mayor of Crete's coastal capital Heraklion, Vassilis Lambrinos, told Skai TV that there were no immediate reports from emergency services of any injuries or severe damage in his city, but confirmed all schools have been evacuated as authorities check buildings for structural damage.

The mayor of Crete’s coastal capital Heraklion, Vassilis Lambrinos, told Skai TV that there were no immediate reports from emergency services of any injuries or severe damage in his city, but confirmed all schools have been evacuated as authorities check buildings for structural damage.

The Earth is moving under our feet: Tectonic plates move through the mantle and produce Earthquakes as they scrape against each other

Tectonic plates are composed of Earth’s crust and the uppermost portion of the mantle. 

Below is the asthenosphere: the warm, viscous conveyor belt of rock on which tectonic plates ride.

The Earth has fifteen tectonic plates (pictured) that together have moulded the shape of the landscape we see around us today

The Earth has fifteen tectonic plates (pictured) that together have moulded the shape of the landscape we see around us today 

Earthquakes typically occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates, where one plate dips below another, thrusts another upward, or where plate edges scrape alongside each other. 

Earthquakes rarely occur in the middle of plates, but they can happen when ancient faults or rifts far below the surface reactivate. 

These areas are relatively weak compared to the surrounding plate, and can easily slip and cause an earthquake.

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