A video grab released by the Croatian Red Cross Dec. 29, 2020, shows rubble in the streets and rescue teams arriving in Petrinja, after the town was struck by an earthquake.
A video grab released by the Croatian Red Cross Dec. 29, 2020, shows rubble in the streets and rescue teams arriving in Petrinja, after the town was struck by an earthquake.

Rescue teams searched overnight after a strong earthquake in central Croatia killed at least seven people, injured more than 20 others and destroyed buildings.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said late Tuesday officials expected the death toll to rise.

The magnitude-6.4 earthquake hit the town of Petrinja the hardest. It came just a day after a magnitude-5.2 quake struck the same area.

People warm up around a fire after an earthquake, in Petrinja, Croatia, Dec. 29, 2020.

Many people spent Tuesday night outside, fearful of another earthquake striking already battered structures.

“The biggest part of central Petrinja is in a red zone, which means that most of the buildings are not usable,” Plenkovic said when he and other government ministers arrived in Petrinja after the earthquake.

The army is assisting with rescue efforts, and Plenkovic said there were places for 500 people to sleep in barracks.

Croatia’s Mountain Rescue Service said searchers aided by dogs had rescued six people from the rubble.

The European Union is sending aid Wednesday with EU crisis management chief Janez Lenarcic set to visit Petrinja.

"At the moment, mostly winter tents, electric heaters, sleeping beds and sleeping bags are needed as well as housing containers," Lenarcic tweeted.

Officials said the dead included a 12-year-old girl in Petrinja, a town of about 25,000 people. Six others died in surrounding villages, while 26 people were hospitalized.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Vienna, Austria, and neighboring Slovenia, which temporarily shut down its nuclear power plant as a precaution.

Earthquakes are not uncommon in Croatia, but ones as strong as this have not been felt since the 1990s, when the village of Ston was destroyed.