In March, as the coronavirus pandemic shut down countries around the world, a massive earthquake struck Croatia. Now, as this tumultuous year closes, the Balkan nation again finds itself hit by earthquakes. And Baptists there are among those hurt by the quakes and ministering to their neighbors.
Over the past few days, several large earthquakes occurred in central Croatia, including a 6.4 magnitude quake on Tuesday (Dec. 29) that marked the largest one in the nation this year. The 5.4 magnitude earthquake on March 22 had been the largest in the nation in 140 years.
Other large quakes this week include: a 5.2 on Dec. 27, a 4.7 on Dec. 28, a 4.8, 4.7, and 4.4 on Dec. 29, and a 3.7 on Dec. 31. Centered about 30 miles southeast of the capital of Zagreb, the quakes have been felt in several neighboring countries and beyond. Several people have died in the quakes, and numerous buildings have been damaged — including Baptist churches.
Toma Magda, director of Croatian Baptist Aid, told Word&Way that “what was left standing” after the first few quakes this week in the towns near the epicenter “was devastated during the strongest earthquake.”
“There are over a thousand houses that have been destroyed, most cannot be used anymore and will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt,” he added. “People have spent the night outside and in former military buildings. Electricity and water supply have been disconnected, and the population was left without ways to communicate with their loved ones, as well as drinkable water and basic sanitation conditions.”
He also noted that two Baptist churches in the area were “completely destroyed.”
“Rebuilding will begin in the following months and supplies will be necessary,” he added. “At present, the ground continues to shake, which presents a serious challenge to the mental health and wellbeing of the population.”
Further complicating the recovery efforts is not only the winter weather but also the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. More than 210,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Croatia, with more than 2,300 dead. When adjusted for inflation, Croatia’s rates per million people are just slightly less than those in the U.S., and thus among the 20-hardest hit nations.
Baptists in Croatia are a small community, but are particularly active in relief work. According to the Baptist World Alliance, the Baptist Union of Croatia has 48 churches with about 2,000 members. In 2015, the Union created Croatian Baptist Aid to provide humanitarian relief, and that aid organization has been highly involved across the Balkan region and beyond in serving refugees entering Europe the past few years from the Middle East.
Note: Those who wish to give to support the relief and recovery efforts can do so on the Croatian Baptist Aid website.