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Magnitude-6.1 earthquake hits western Greek island of Lefkada; 2 deaths, damage reported

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ATHENS, Greece A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 6.1 hit the western Greek island of Lefkada on Tuesday, leaving two people reported dead and damaging roads and buildings.

The temblor was felt across western Greece, with people on Lefkada and the nearby Ionian Sea island of Kefalonia rushing out onto the streets. The fire department said it was sending crews to Lefkada to assess the situation and help cleanup efforts.

The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the undersea quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 and occurred at 9:10 a.m. (0710 GMT) off Greece’s western mainland, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) west of Athens. The U.S. Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude at 6.5. Different agencies often have varying preliminary magnitudes in the hours and sometimes days after a quake.

The fire department said an 82-year-old woman was killed in the village of Athani when a wall collapsed on her. And the regional governor’s office said they had received a “credible report” of a second fatality, while the island’s network of mountainous roads was damaged by landslides. Schools were shut on both Lefkada and Kefalonia as a precaution.

Ionian Islands regional governor Theodoros Galiatsatos said on state-run television ERT that authorities were waiting for more detailed information from the fire department. Aftershocks were also hitting the island — including one with a 5.2 magnitude more than an hour after the main quake — and Galiatsatos called on residents to avoid any structures that appeared damaged until authorities could assess their safety.

Earthquakes are common in Greece, which is one of the world’s most seismically active areas, though serious injuries and deaths are rare. A severe quake near Athens in 1999 killed 143 people, and caused extensive damage through the Greek capital.

The Ionian is particularly seismically active, and new buildings on the area’s islands are constructed to strict anti-seismic standards. Kefalonia was struck by a series of strong earthquakes, two of them with magnitudes of around 6, in January 2014, causing damage and minor injuries but no fatalities.

Those temblors awakened memories of catastrophic 1953 quakes that flattened nearly all the island’s structures, killing hundreds of people.

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