A powerful earthquake shook the island of Crete in Greece on Monday morning, destroying buildings and forcing people to evacuate into the streets — including crowds of terrified tourists and schoolchildren in the city of Iraklion.
Rock slides were also reported in villages, the Associated Press reported.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center and the U.S. Geological Survey gave the earthquake a preliminary magnitude ranking of 6.0, while the Athens Geodynamic Institute recorded it as 5.8.
Several aftershocks were also reported in surrounding areas, with the strongest estimated to have a magnitude of 4.6, sparking fears that old buildings on the island may crumble under pressure.
According to the Athens Geodynamic Institute, the earthquake struck just after 9 a.m. local time. The epicenter of the quake was 14 miles northwest of the seaside village of Arvi.
Greece’s Ministry of Climate Crisis & Civil Protection warned those on the island to “be particularly careful” and to “follow directions” from the authorities, while tourists reported that they had been evacuated from their hotels amid the chaos.
“It was terrifying,” one witness told the Independent, a British newspaper. “Initially there was just a very slight rumble, like waiting for a train underground, but it quickly increased causing the building to shake.”
Arkalochori and Iraklion were particularly affected by the quake, which had a recorded depth of 6.2 miles.
“We REALLY FELT this one,” tweeted one witness, while others said they could feel tremors as far away as Santorini, some 92 miles from Crete.
Seismologist Gerasimos Papadopoulos told Greek media that the quake had not “occurred without warning,” adding that there had been activity in the region for “several months.”
Earthquakes are not uncommon in Greece and Turkey, countries that sit on active fault lines.