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Serbia: Netizens and Media Report on the Kraljevo Earthquake

Who is next? Darker colors indicate areas where new devastating earthquakes can be expected. Source: Vecernje Novosti

Hundreds of earthquakes will shake Serbia in the next few months, but none of them will be nearly as powerful as those that occurred on the night of Nov. 2-3 in and around the town of Kraljevo, warned the experts from the Serbian Republican Seismological Bureau.

A 5.3-magnitude earthquake with the epicenter near the village of Vitanovac was felt in almost all parts of Serbia. The ground was shaking in the whole area of Sumadija, western Serbia, Raska region, Kosovo, and even in most parts of Vojvodina. Milder earthquakes were felt in the neighbouring Republika Srpska and Croatia. In the Serbian capital Belgrade tremors also disturbed the residents.

Following the initial shock in the vicinity of Kraljevo, about 70 minor earthquakes were recorded, said Branko Dragicevic, deputy director of the Republican Seismological Bureau, in an interview with Blic.

Two people were killed and more than 50 injured that night. Natalija and Sinisa Stasic from Grdica died in their sleep when the ceiling of their house collapsed on them. Their son Ivica Stasic, 33, survived by sheer luck: he stayed up late that night on the ground floor watching television, while his parents were in their bedroom on an upper floor.

An elderly woman from Mrcajevci, a village near the Kraljevo, died of a heart attack most likely caused by the fear of earthquakes, according to the statement from her family members.

The Serbian media described the dramatic scenes in Kraljevo. People were out in the streets, in panic and fear.

Stefan Petrovic, 22, from Kraljevo recalls that night:

I was coming from my friend's place at the time of the earthquake. Everything started shaking. For a moment I lost my balance, so I squatted on the ground. It was horrible. Although it was just a few seconds, it seemed like it would last forever. As if the earth had opened up…

Dragica Stankovic, a housewife, still remembers the earthquakes in Bucharest in 1977 and the one in Montenegro in 1979, but that experience wasn't as “horrible” as the one last week in Kraljevo:

It was horrible, as if it was the end of the world. I was asleep and then it began to shake so much that I immediately jumped out of bed. I immediately tried to call my daughter, but I could not get to her on the mobile. Thank God, she was fine […].

Veljko Vasic and his wife Sanja, in their panic, almost lost their 4-year-old son Nikola, who survived after an attic panel struck the bed on which the little boy was asleep:

As usual, we put him to bed early. We went to bed, and then the roar woke me up. I opened my eyes and realized there was an earthquake. It seems to me that I yelled to Sanja to get herself with the kid into the door frame. I was thinking that he was with her. He was still in bed – I heard some small weeping and him calling us.

The parents managed to rescue Nikola from under the heavy concrete blocks and mortar. The boy was not injured, but is still afraid of each new shaking. The Serbian media proclaimed him a “little hero.”

Vladimir and Nebojsa Andric from the village Donja Sirca near Kraljevo in just one minute lost their family house, which was damaged to the extent that both of them and their four children had to move urgently to a shelter. With tears in his eyes, holding his head, Vladimir Andric says:

All that my wife and I have earned in life we invested in this house, so that we could create normal living for our children. And now all of that is dust and ashes!

The most dramatic moments were witnessed by the patients and employees of the Kraljevo Maternity Hospital. According to the statement issued by the medical staff, none of the 27 babies who were on the ward at the time of the earthquake was hurt, though the local authorities did not show up to help with evacuation:

Brave nurses from the maternity department organized evacuation of mothers and babies, of which some literally counted the first minute of life.

They were moved from the flooded hospital room into the hallways. The flooding was caused by the bursting of pipes. The ward's chief doctor, Dragan Jovanovic, said that fifteen minutes before the first and the strongest earthquake, he had performed a Caesarean section on a young woman.

Serbian national TV channel RTS ran a story about the medical staff of this maternity hospital, calling them “the heroes of Kraljevo.”

Ivica Dacic, Serbian Interior Minister said:

The earthquake in Kraljevo has damaged up to 4,000 buildings.

Dacic also announced that employees of the police would donate one day's pay to their colleagues in Kraljevo, whose houses had been damaged in the earthquake.

Over a hundred volunteers from ten cities in Serbia came to Kraljevo to assist in clearing up the consequences of the earthquake. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management has ensured, through donors, about 50 tons of sugar and about 28,000 gallons of oil. People from Loznica took an action to collect aid in construction materials.

Aleksandar Martinovic, a representative of the Serbian Radical Party, proposed to the Serbian Government to invest 10 million euros in Kraljevo. The money would be donated from the governmental fund established to pay the award to those who submit information on the war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic.

The Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic donated his monthly salary (1,000 euros) to help Kraljevo citizens. The same thing was done by the Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac.

In a comment to the article about these donations, user Van_Halen was cheering:

Bravo to the ministers! …Bravo to anyone who wants and can help!

Zox asked ironically:

Bravo to the ministers…? Are you normal people…? The earthquake has destroyed half the city and they allotted only 50,000 euros for assistance… […] We have a lot of stupid brothers, which is a greater disaster than the earthquake…

Orlando Antoni, the Vatican Ambassador to Serbia, and the Belgrade Catholic Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar visited the Catholic church in Kraljevo, which had been badly damaged in the earthquake and declared unsafe to use. Antoni and Hocevar also visited the Orthodox monastery Zica, which had also been damaged. Ambassador Antoni said:

I come from the city of Aquila in the Italian province of Abruzzi, which was hit by a disastrous earthquake a year and a half ago. Because I know how you feel now, I sympathize with you…

The Pope will invite believers from around the world to help Kraljevo, said Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar in Belgrade.

The first reports about the Kraljevo disaster were published on online social networks. Twitter users were well organized in a group of online reporters, filing under the #zemljotres (“earthquake”) hashtag. Young Serbs relied on this source of information rather than on reports by the mainstream media outlets. On the other hand, Twitter’s standard 140-character messages were very helpful to the mainstream media as a source of information, especially in a situation when phone connection with reporters on the site was disrupted.

Twitter has also been used as a “call centre” for volunteers willing to help with the clean-up in Kraljevo.

@Milicevic_J:

Sutanovac [Defence Minister] calls those who sit in the cafes to assist in cleaning

Individual experiences shared on Twitter during the night of the earthquake reflected the drama reliably.

@Cudovistance:

I thought there was a party in the neighbourhood.

@Mandarinaaa:

It was not so horrible. We are shaking a bit. The parrot woke us up…

@Mooshema:

I saw pictures of my sister's home in Kraljevo. Sad…

@neshasr:

If the end of the world must begin in Serbia, just let it not start from my village!

@Lidijabera:

For me the parrots are indicators – and now they are relaxing, and the dog Eddie sleeps.

Facebook page “All of us who felt the earthquake” got over 3,500 members in six hours. The members’ status updates indicated whether they felt the earthquake and what their impressions were.

According to the Seismological Bureau, it was not possible to predict the earthquake in Kraljevo, though the seismological stations in Serbia had registered 41 earthquakes in Kosovo and Metohija from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12.

Unlike the official seismological institutions, some religious persons had “predicted” the earthquake as a punishment for a prodigal life that, in their view, is being increasingly practiced in Serbia.

Jelena Hia Markovic on her Facebook profile recalls the words of the Serbian Orthodox Monk Father Joil Bulatovic, who said this before the Belgrade Gay Pride Parade:

If the parade is going to take place in Belgrade, earthquakes will hit Belgrade and Serbia.

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