Greece declares emergency on quake-hit islands

Associated Press
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In this Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014 image earthquake damage is visible at a port in the island of Kefalonia, western Greece. Schools have been ordered closed and a state of emergency has been declared on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 on the island of Kefalonia, Ionian Sea, after an earthquake damaged homes and injured at least seven people. Hundreds of the island residents slept in their cars after Sunday's magnitude 5.8 temblor struck near the town of Lixouri on the western Greek island, and was followed by aftershocks as powerful as magnitude 5.2, according to the Institute of Geodynamics in Athens. (AP Photo/InTime News)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's government announced emergency relief for the residents of the Ionian islands of Kefalonia and Ithaki on Monday, a day after they were hit by a strong earthquake that caused damage and slightly injured seven people.

Sunday's quake, whose magnitude the Athens Geodynamic Institute revised to 5.9 from the preliminary 5.8, was followed by dozens of aftershocks that continued through Monday.

Frightened residents were preparing to spend a second night in their cars or town squares, fearing a possible bigger quake. Many recall the devastating quakes of 1953, when a 7.2 magnitude temblor struck three days after a 6.4 one, killing hundreds, injuring thousands and destroying nearly all the buildings on the islands.

"We need 48 hours to say with 99 percent certainty that this was the main quake," Thanassis Ganas, head of research at the Athens Geodynamic Institute, said on Skai television Monday morning. He added, however, that the multiple aftershocks were normal and expected.

Buildings erected in the area since 1953 have been constructed to strict anti-seismic specifications, and serious damage from Sunday's quake was limited. Rockslides shut some roads, and many homes and stores suffered cracks and broken windows.

Schools will remain shut for a second day on both islands Tuesday while engineers inspect school buildings to ensure they are safe, the government said in a statement.

The state is setting aside 100,000 euros ($136,500) for the residents of each of the islands to meet immediate needs, while equal amounts were earmarked for the municipalities of both islands to provide to those "directly affected," the government said.

Two ferries with a combined capacity of nearly 4,000 passengers were dispatched to Kefalonia to provide housing for residents whose homes were damaged.

Authorities also sent rescue vehicles and disaster response units on standby to Kefalonia, as well as police reinforcements.

Earthquakes are common throughout Greece, but the vast majority are small and cause no injuries or damage.