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1963: Thousands killed in Yugoslav earthquake

Thousands of people are feared dead after a massive earthquake rocked the Yugoslav city of Skopje.

The first quake occurred in the Macedonian capital at about 0500 and lasted for 20 seconds.

Tremors from the earthquake were felt some 90 miles along the Vardar valley.

More than 100,000 people were made homeless immediately as three-quarters of the city's buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Breaking point

Early reports suggest hundreds are trapped beneath the rubble.

The city's hospitals are already at breaking point and medical supplies and blood plasma are urgently required.

The city's main railway station has been destroyed as has the post office, cutting off all communication with the outside world.

Rescue teams from across Yugoslavia are making their way to the stricken city.

Eye-witnesses said buildings collapsed like packs of cards and people were running through the city to flee the carnage.

Skopje, which is on the banks of the Vardar river, is the capital of the Macedonian republic of Yugoslavia and is home to more than 200,000 people.

President Tito of Yugoslavia said in a message of condolence sent immediately after the tragedy: "Together with all the peoples of Yugoslavia we will endeavour to mitigate the misfortune that has befallen your republic."

Seismological stations in Yugoslavia recorded the strength of the earthquake as 9.0 on the Mercalli scale (equivalent to 6.9 on the Richter scale.)

In Context
The 1963 earthquake was the second to hit the city of Skopje - chroniclers have noted that the city was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 518 A.D.

The 1963 earthquake damaged or completely destroyed about 80% of the city's buildings and killed more than 1,000 people.

However, the city was quickly rebuilt around the shattered railroad terminal, which was left as a memorial to the tragedy.

A broken clock marking the time of the earthquake, 5:17am, remains at the scene.

Many of the historic memorials have been restored, including the 15th-century Stone Bridge across the Vardar river.

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