“Where shall we go?”, families ask after Croatia quake

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Majske Poljane (Reuters) – Rescue workers sifted through the rubble on Wednesday to make sure there were no more people trapped after an earthquake in central Croatia that killed seven people and destroyed scores of homes and other buildings.

Many residents spent the night in their cars, terrified that a series of aftershocks of up to 4.8 magnitude would send more debris tumbling from houses already weakened by Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude quake.

Others had no home left to stay in.

Drone footage from the town of Petrinja, near the epicentre, showed tangles of wood and brick, people’s rooms and belongings exposed to the daylight after the force of the tremor sheared the walls and roofs from their houses.

Josip Granic, from the mountain rescue service HGSS, said his men would continue working throughout the day, sifting methodically through the wreckage in the towns and villages to find anyone else who might be trapped.

“We want to be sure by the end of the day that no one has been left behind in the rubble,” he said.

As well as the seven killed, 26 were injured, including six who are seriously wounded, officials said.

In the village of Majske Poljane, where five of the people died, the vast majority of the houses were completely destroyed.

Mira Zlonoga was in tears as she looked at what was left of her home.

“What shall we do, where shall we go? God knows. Only God can help us … I have a grandmother, she’s 91, immobile, she wears diapers, she is in some sort of accommodation, and I spent the whole night in the car,” she said.

For Marijana Matic, the picture was the same: “We started from scratch, when we raised these animals, pigs.” A few survived and she and her husband were trying to work out where to shelter them – and themselves.

Asked where they would go, she said: “I don’t know. My husband went to look.”

In Sisak, another badly hit town, Mayor Kristina Ikic Banicek said: “Our immediate worry is to find shelter and secure supplies for everyone. The people are the priority. After that the priority is to deal with damage to infrastructure.”

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the government had set aside 120 million kuna ($19.50 million) to urgently help the worst affected areas.

Croatia has also asked for help from the European Union and the European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic was due to visit the area affected later on Wednesday.

The government declared Jan. 2 as a day of national mourning.

Pope Francis prayed for the victims. “I express my closeness to the wounded and to those who were hit by the earthquake and I pray in particular for those who lost their lives and for their families,” he said.