Panic as strong quake shakes Athens

People stand outside buildings in central Athens after an earthquake. (AFP)

A strong 5.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Athens on Friday, knocking out phone connections, damaging buildings and causing power outages, as panicked residents rushed into the streets.

State TV ERT reported that at least two people were lightly hurt - a pregnant tourist and a young boy - and at least two abandoned buildings in the capital collapsed, while several more suffered damage.

"It was a very intense quake, we were terrified, everyone started coming out (of the building)," a young woman named Katerina told AFP outside the six-storey cosmetics store where she works.

The epicentre of the shallow quake was northwest of Athens, close to where a 5.9-magnitude quake in September 1999 left 143 people dead in and around the capital.

Friday's emergency was the second in just over a week for the new conservative administration of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who took office after a July 7 election.

In the city centre, the marble cupola cross of a historic 19th century church came loose and shattered onto the street below.

Another Athens church had its cupola cross snapped by the tremor, and a disused cargo conveyor belt at the port of Piraeus collapsed, TV footage showed.

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