A powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake collapsed buildings in central Croatia on Tuesday, striking near the town of Petrinja where rescue teams raced to comb through the rubble.

The tremor, which struck at a depth of 10 kilometres at around 1130 GMT according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), was also felt strongly some 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the epicentre in the capital Zagreb, where panicked residents raced onto the streets, according to an AFP reporter.

"We are pulling people from cars, we don't know if we have dead or injured," the mayor of Petrinja Darinko Dumbovic told regional broadcaster N1.

Map locating an earthquake which hit Croatia on Monday.
Map locating an earthquake which hit Croatia on Monday. AFP / Tupac POINTU

"There is general panic, people are looking for their loved ones."

Images of the town, which is home to around 20,000, showed collapsed roofs and streets strewn with bricks and other debris.

The tremor comes one day after a smaller earthquake struck Petrinja, causing some damage to buildings.

The Balkan region lies on major fault lines and is regularly hit by earthquakes.