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Strong earthquake shakes central Greece, felt in Balkans

A woman hugs a girl as people gather at the main square after an earthquake in Larissa city, central Greece, on March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Vaggelis Kousioras)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of up to 6.3 struck central Greece on Wednesday and was felt as far away as the capitals of neighboring Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro.

    There were no immediate reports of injuries. Local officials reported some structural damage, mainly to old houses and buildings that saw walls collapse or crack.

    The quake sent people rushing out of homes and office buildings into the streets in Larissa and Tyrnavos, the closest towns to the epicenter, which was 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) west-northwest of Larissa. Numerous aftershocks hit the area, with the most powerful having a preliminary magnitude of over 5.0.

    The quake struck just after 12:15 p.m. (1015 GMT), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center, which put the preliminary magnitude at 6.2.

    The United States Geological Survey and the Global Seismic Monitor Geofon put the quake's preliminary magnitude at 6.3 while the seismological institute of the Aritotle University of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, put the magnitude at 6.0. It is common for magnitude estimates to vary soon after a quake.

    Athens Geodynamic Institute seismologist Vassilis Karastathis told reporters that the quake originated in a fault line in the area that has historically not produced quakes of much larger magnitude than Wednesday's. He said the post-quake activity appeared normal so far but experts were monitoring the situation.

    Nikos Gatsas, mayor of the town of Elassona which lies north of the epicenter, told Greece's state broadcaster ERT that walls of old houses had collapsed in nearby villages, and that one village school had sustained damage. All pupils had been evacuated from the building and there were no injuries.

    The fire department said it had received reports of damage to one home and school, while the fire service and police were patrolling the area. All local fire departments were put on alert.

    The head of the National Defense General Staff and other civil defense, fire department and political officials were heading to the area.

    Greece lies in a highly seismically active region. The vast majority of earthquakes cause no damage or injuries.

    Last October, an earthquake that struck the eastern Greek Aegean island of Samos and the nearby Turkish coast killed two high school students on Samos and at least 75 people in Turkey.

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