THE Orthodox hierarchy pledged prayer and practical help for residents of Crete this week, after a violent earthquake struck the Greek island on Monday, wrecking homes and killing a church renovator.
“We intensify prayers and supplications to all-merciful God that this extraordinary, destructive phenomenon will pass, leaving our people strong, patient and hopeful,” a message from the Holy Synod of the Church in Crete said.
“We will also take specific practical support initiatives for our stricken brethren once their immediate needs are established.”
The earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.8, struck Arkalochori, south-west of Heraklion.
Messages of support also came from the Orthodox Church on mainland Greece, and the Cretan-born Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II, who said that he was “strongly bound emotionally” to the area and shocked by the earthquake’s “destructive power”.
At least 1000 homes were damaged, and dozens of people were badly injured. Iakovos Tzagarakis, a 65-year-old man who was renovating the Prophet Elias Church in Arkalochori, was killed.
Greek media reported that Mr Tzagarakis’s son had been freed from rubble after the church’s dome collapsed, and that schools and hospitals had been evacuated. Roads and water supplies were disrupted, leaving up to 2500 residents sheltering in cars, tents, and parks.
The head of the Greek Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, Efthimios Lekkas, said that seismologists had been expecting a smaller tremor since July, but were shocked by the scale of the earthquake, which also caused rock slides and sparked a tsunami warning.
Several strong aftershocks had rocked Crete on Tuesday, he said. People were being advised to avoid old stone buildings while current alerts continued.
A churchwarden of Crete’s one Anglican church, St Thomas’s, Kefalas, east of Chania, said on Tuesday that he and his neighbours had “felt shudders” at least 20 miles from the epicentre. “Crete is Greece’s largest island, with a lot of British expats, but most practising Anglicans come from this area,” the churchwarden, David Hurley, said. St Thomas’s, which was dedicated in 2007, is part of the diocese in Europe’s Greater Athens Chaplaincy..
“Although none of our own community was hurt, according to news reports, social media have been full of shock at the death of the Orthodox church worker,” Mr Hurley said.
Greece lies between the slowly parting Eurasian and Aegean plates, and is prone to seismic disturbances. An earthquake in October last year killed two inhabitants of the eastern island of Samos, and at least 75 people on the Turkish coast near by.