Zagreb stories

by Hrvoje Potrebica (, Ivan Drnić ( and Roderick B. Salisbury (

“This is a catastrophe. My city is completely destroyed. We have dead children” Darinko Dumbovic, Mayor of Petrinja

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck central Croatia on 29 December 2020, following two smaller quakes the day before, and followed by several powerful aftershocks. This was the most powerful earthquake recorded in Croatia since modern seismic instruments were invented. Centred 2 km west-southwest of Petrinja, at a depth of 10 km, the quake caused widespread and devastating damage, and at least seven deaths. Most of the buildings in central Petrinja are not useable. A 3.9 magnitude quake reported for 11 January 2021 opened numerous sinkholes. The largest, in the village of Mečenčani, was about 20 meters wide and five meters deep, and continued growing in size. A new quake of magnitude 3.4 was reported on 24 January 2021.

Damaged buildings and rubble-filled streets in Petrinja (Image: Associated Press)

We ask all EAA members to keep their Croatian colleagues in mind. For the past month, this has been a humanitarian crisis, intensified by the novel Corona virus. An outpouring of support from the people of Croatia, along with financial and logistical support from the EU and Swiss Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others, is helping to alleviate this crisis. Donations for humanitarian aid can be made via the Red Cross. As the humanitarian crisis passes, however, the destruction of cultural and archaeological institutions and heritage will come to the fore. The museum in Zagreb suffered minor additional damage, but the museum in Sisak is heavily damaged together with a new exhibition “Segestika and Siscija - a settlement from the beginning of history" that had opened in October 2020. EAA members will be able to offer aid – perhaps not in person during this pandemic, but certainly in the form of books, supplies, technology, expert advice, and yes, even cash. The Archaeology Museum of Zagreb website is maintaining its donations page, which began after the March 2020 earthquake We will provide more information for the Sisak Municipal museum and other institutions when it becomes available.

The following is a brief report from our EAA Vice-President, Hrvoje Potrebica, as he found a few minutes to tell us what was happening on the ground.

Dear Rod and Katharina,

It has been horrible even in Zagreb. Much worse than in the spring, especially in the area around Petrinja. Sisak was also damaged, and Zagreb suffered additional damage as well. The Archaeological Museum was hit again and the Croatian Archaeological Society building is unusable at this point. The Archaeological Department and the Center for Prehistoric Research are in much better shape, structurally, but a lot of material that was there (restored pots and metal finds from Iron Age graves) was seriously damaged and we do not know how to deal with that (but it is the least of our problems now). People are on the edge because every day you can feel at least one significant earthquake.

I am currently in the villages around Glina with my ex-military crew trying to help… rescue is over, and now we are cleaning debris and driving around delivering food and necessities to nearly inaccessible areas. We will be here for additional two days and then I have to go back to Zagreb. Three small towns were literary wiped out. The strongest earthquake was 6.2 (ed. note: 6.4 reported by the US Geological Survey), but there are numerous aftershocks after that… this morning we had 3.9 and 4.2. Seven dead, children included… it is a miracle that there are not more! It is raining and beginning to snow and people are outside with no shelter.

The worst problem is provisional accommodation (containers, trailers, tents) because lot of people, especially the old, refuse to leave their homes, even though they are levelled to the ground. I hope that we will solve that problem very soon. We have enough food, clothes, water and other supplies because all of Croatia jumped up and came to help. It is unbelievable! People came literary from everywhere: from Dubrovnik to Osijek in a matter of hours. Hundreds of volunteers are coming in with cars, vans, and trucks full of stuff. The government reacted well and quickly, so in matter of hours the towns were full of army and fire-fighters from all over Croatia. Two hospitals and several retirement homes are completely destroyed and patients were evacuated by cars and helicopters to Zagreb. Imagine how difficult it was with COVID patients on respirators.

Pray for us that no significant aftershock comes while people are working on roofs, and in and around ruins, because our death toll might seriously increase. In the meantime, I wish you, all your family and all your loved ones all the best, lot of health, happiness and success in the coming year!

Stay safe and sane!

Contact and Aid

For cash or in-kind donations to the Croatian Red Cross:
For information on the Sisak Municipal Museum, contact Ivan Drnić (
To report additional information, particularly about archaeological heritage recovery efforts, email

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