Damage is seen on the Church of the Pantanassa following an earthquake in Athens, Greece
© Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis
Damage is seen on the Church of the Pantanassa following an earthquake in Athens, Greece. July 19, 2019.
No immediate news on injuries or damage after 5.3-magnitude quake rattles southern Greece

A strong earthquake has struck near Athens, causing residents of the Greek capital to run into the streets.

The city's Institute of Geodynamics gave the earthquake a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 but the US Geological Survey gave it a preliminary magnitude of 5.3. The institute said the quake struck at 2.13pm local time, about 14 miles north of Athens.

The quake caused limited power cuts and communication problems around the capital; the fire brigade received calls about people trapped in lifts.

The quake, which was caught live in the studios of the state broadcaster, ERT, caused damage to the bell tower of the Pantanassa church in Monastiraki Square in Athens.

The Civil Protection Authority said there was no immediate word on injuries or damage.

The most powerful quake to hit Athens in the past 20 years occurred in 1999, when a 6.0-magnitude temblor caused extensive damage and killed more than 140 people.

Gerasimos Papadopoulos, a senior seismologist at the Geodynamics Institute, said Friday's quake was felt across southern Greece. "It had a very shallow depth and that's why it was felt so strongly," he said.

"It is too early to say whether this was the main earthquake, but there have been aftershocks of magnitude 3.5, 2.5 and 3.2 - and that is encouraging. But we need more time and data to have a clear picture."

Associated Press in Athens