Strong quake hits near Athens, Greece, sparking fear

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A strong earthquake hit Friday near the Greek capital of Athens, causing residents to run into the streets in fear and firefighters to check for people trapped in elevators.

The Athens Institute of Geodynamics gave the earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 but the U.S. Geological Survey tagged it as a magnitude of 5.3. The Athens Institute says the quake struck at 2:13 p.m. local time (1113 GMT) some 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) north of Athens.

Authorities inspected areas close to the epicenter by helicopter and police patrols but no deaths or serious injuries were reported. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said one abandoned building had collapsed in a western district of Athens and that several other abandoned buildings had suffered serious damages in other parts of the city.

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People observe a mobile home in Ridgecrest, Calif. on Friday July 5, 2019. The home was knocked off its foundation in the Fourth of July earthquake. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
Visitors look over a crack on Highway 178 between Ridgecrest and Trona, Calif., on Friday July 5, 2019. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on the July 4th holiday, rattling nerves and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
United States Geological Survey (USGS) equipment is set up near a split in the pavement on Highway 178 between Ridgecrest and Trona, Calif., on Friday July 5, 2019. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on the July 4th holiday, rattling nerves and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
Traffic drives over a patched section of Highway 178 between Ridgecrest and Trona, Calif., on Friday, July 5, 2019. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on the July 4th holiday, rattling nerves and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. The 6.4 magnitude quake struck Thursday in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
A child walks by one of the mobile homes knocked off its foundation by an earthquake in Ridgecrest, Calif., on Friday July 5, 2019. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on the July 4th holiday, rattling nerves and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. The 6.4 magnitude quake struck Thursday morning in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)
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A damaged motorhome is seen red-taped after an earthquake, Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Ridgecrest, Calif. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. The 6.4 magnitude quake struck at 10:33 a.m. in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
Merchandise lies on the floor at a Family Dollar store seen through a window after an earthquake Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Trona, Calif. A strong earthquake rattled a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing some damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of aftershocks. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
This photo shows damage on Highway 178 in Ridgecrest, Calif., following an earthquake in the area Thursday, July 4, 2019. The earthquake shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing some injuries and damage in the town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
RIDGECREST, CA - JULY 05: On Friday morning Shalyn Pineda, regional supervisor of Kern Counties Libraries, at Ridgecrest Library help in picking up books knocked down by Thursday?s massive 6.4 earthquake that hit Ridgecrest. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: A worker cleans up in a liquor store after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area and knocked over bottles in the store on July 4, 2019 near Ridgecrest, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: People walk near cracks in the road after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area on July 4, 2019 near Ridgecrest, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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"There are no reports of serious injuries ... I urge members of the public to remains calm, in Greece we are well acquainted with earthquakes," he said.

The quake caused limited power cuts and communication problems around Athens and the fire brigade reported receiving calls about people being trapped in elevators. The shock was caught live in the studios of state broadcaster ERT.

The most powerful quake to hit the Greek capital in the last 20 years came in 1999, when a temblor of magnitude 6.0 caused extensive damage and killed more than 140 people.

Gerasimos Papadopoulos, the senior seismologist at the Geodynamics Institute said Friday's quake was felt across southern Greece.

"It had a very shallow depth and that's why it was felt so strongly," he said. "It is too early to say whether this was the main earthquake, but there have been aftershocks of magnitude 3.5, 2.5 and 3.2 and that is encouraging. But we need more time and data to have a clear picture."

Earthquakes are common in Greece and neighboring Turkey.

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Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki, Greece.

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Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos and Kantouris at https://twitter.com/CostasKantouris

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Full coverage at https://www.apnews.com/Greece

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