A strong earthquake shook Croatia and its capital on Sunday, causing widespread damage and panic.

A 15-year-old was reported to be in critical condition and 16 others were injured, authorities said.

The European seismological agency, EMSC, said the earthquake measured 5.3 and struck a wide area north of the capital, Zagreb, at 6.23am (0523 GMT).

Croatia Earthquake
A car is crushed by falling debris after the earthquake in Zagreb, Croatia (Filip Horvat/AP)

The epicentre was four miles (7km) north of Zagreb at a depth of six miles (10km).

Many buildings in the city cracked, and walls and rooftops were damaged.

Streets were littered with debris, with concrete slabs falling on cars and chimneys landing in front of entrances.

Inside homes, residents shared photos of belongings falling off shelves, broken bottles and glass.

Croatia Earthquake
People inspect the damage caused by the earthquake in the main square in central Zagreb, Croatia (Filip Horvat/AP)

Croatian media said a 15-year-old died. Officials said there were other injuries, but gave no immediate details.

Photographs from the scene showed mothers dressed in nightgowns hugging their newborn babies in a car park as they evacuated a maternity hospital amid freezing temperatures.

The earthquake struck amid a partial lockdown of the capital because of the spread of the coronavirus.

People were told to avoid public areas, such as parks and public squares, but had no choice as they ran out of their apartments.

Up to five people keeping distance are allowed to be together.

Croatia Earthquake
One of the spires of Zagreb’s cathedral was damaged in the earthquake (Darko Bandic/AP)

Zagreb’s famous cathedral was also damaged, with the top of one of its two spires collapsing. The cathedral was rebuilt after it toppled in the 1880 earthquake.

Power was cut as people ran out of their homes. Several fires were also reported.

At least two other tremors were recorded later.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the earthquake was the biggest in Zagreb in the last 140 years.

He urged citizens to remain calm and stay outside their homes in the central parts of the city, which sustained the most damage.

“We have two parallel crises that contradict each other,” Mr Plenkovic said after an emergency meeting of Croatia’s top officials.

Croatia Earthquake
People walk past a damaged vehicle after the earthquake in Zagreb (Darko Bandic/AP)

Croatia’s army and all emergency services will start clearing the streets as soon as possible, while assessment of the damage will start at the same time.

“We will try to clear the streets as soon as possible,” he said. “Stay outside your homes and keep distance.”

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said the situation was complicated by the restrictive virus-related measures in place.

“There are rules for when there is an earthquake, but when there is an earthquake at the same time when there is a global pandemic, then it’s a much more complex situation.” he told the state HINA news agency.