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Crete Earthquake 2013: Very Strong Quake Hits West Of Island

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In this July 23, 2013 photo, Gilberto Castelan, director of instrumentation at Mexico?s National Disaster Prevention Center laboratory, shows a seismic graph from Dec. 18, 2000 when a large eruption was recorded at the Popocatepetl volcano in Mexico City. Sensors feed data to the constantly scrolling seismographs as the crew and volcanologists analyze the concentration of gases and changes in the shape of the mountain. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) | AP

ATHENS, Greece -- ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A very strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck west of the Greek island of Crete, causing minor damage, according to early reports.

The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the quake took place at 4:12 p.m. (1312 GMT), 68 kilometers (42 miles) west of the city of Chania, in Crete, and 279 kilometers (172 miles) south of Athens. The epicenter was 23 kilometers (14 miles) under the sea. The earthquake was also felt in Athens.

"The earthquake was very strong and lasted long," Chania deputy mayor Manoussos Lionakis told The Associated Press. "Fortunately, there was no serious damage. The worst I've heard was some rock falls in a ravine west of the city. A bus was trapped, but no one was hurt. We have removed the debris.

"Right now we have employees inspecting the buildings in the old city, but, apart from some cracked marble facades here and there, we have found nothing," he added.

A local newspaper, Chaniotijka Nea, reports that a resident of Chania was injured, not seriously, when he panicked and jumped off a first-floor balcony, landing on a car. Local media reported anxious citizens in Chania and Iraklio, the island's largest city east of Chania, rushing into the streets. Firefighters in Chania said there was no serious damage and no emergency calls.

Strong earthquakes are far from rare in Greece. Last June, a 5.6-magnitude quake struck south of Crete, likewise resulting in no serious damage, and temblors over 4 magnitude occur quite often. The deadliest recent earthquake, of 5.9 magnitude, struck near Athens in September 1999, resulting in 143 dead, 110 collapsed buildings and more than 5,000 buildings severely damaged.

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