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 6:23 a.m. (0523 GMT) Sunday. The epicenter was seven kilometers (four miles) north of Zagreb at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).
There were at least for weaker temblors after the initial quake.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the earthquake was the biggest in Zagreb in the last 140 years.
Many buildings in the capital cracked and walls and rooftops were damaged. Downtown streets were littered with debris. Concrete slabs fell on cars and chimneys landed in front of entrances.
Footage from the scene showed mothers dressed in nightgowns hugging their newborn babies in a parking lot as they evacuated a damaged maternity hospital amid freezing temperatures. The women, newborn babies and incubators were being moved to a new location with the help of the army.
Zagreb’s iconic 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. Residents shared photos of belongings falling off shelves, broken bottles and glass inside homes.
Officials first said a 15-year-old was killed, but doctors later said that she was in critical condition and that they were fighting to save her life. They gave no immediate details on the extent of other injuries.
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 little choice as they fled their residences.
Up to five people are allowed to be together while keeping a distance.
Health Minister Vili Beros warned people to keep a two-meter (around seven-foot) “social distance” as requested by decrees passed by the government in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There are 235 coronavirus cases confirmed so far in Croatia.
“Earthquakes are dangerous, but coronavirus is even more so,” Beros said, as people rushed out of their homes to congregate in city parks.