Albania earthquake: Fresh tremors as toll rises

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Firefighters trying to rescue a survivor after an earthquake hit Thumane, Albania, 26 November 2019
Firefighters extracted this injured man from the rubble in Thumane

Rescuers are scrambling to find survivors under the rubble of buildings in Albania, where a strong earthquake has killed 26 people and injured 650.

The magnitude-6.4 tremor struck 34km (21 miles) north-west of the capital, Tirana, as people slept in their beds during the early hours of Tuesday.

Most of the deaths occurred in the coastal city of Durres and the town of Thumane, close to the epicentre.

Hundreds spent the night in tents, some slept in cars, as aftershocks continue.

Some 500 shocks have been felt since the initial quake hit at 03:54 local time (02:54 GMT) on Tuesday. Search teams have arrived from a number of European countries to help find survivors.

People receive food as they take shelter in a camp at the soccer stadium in Durres on November 26, 2019, after the strongest earthquake in decades
Image captionPeople have been housed in a football stadium in Durres

More than 40 people have been pulled from the rubble and Prime Minister Edi Rama promised that rescuers would “continue to search patiently and thoroughly to the end”.

The government has declared Wednesday a day of mourning.

The European Commission said it had deployed rescue teams from Italy, Greece and Romania to help with the search efforts, while teams were also sent from Kosovo and Montenegro.

Tuesday’s earthquake is the strongest to hit Albania in decades.

How bad was the quake?

The 6.4 magnitude tremor was followed by powerful aftershocks.

In Thumane, a five-storey apartment building collapsed.

Dulejman Kolaveri, a man in his 50s, said he feared his 70-year-old mother and six-year-old niece were trapped inside because they had lived on the top floor.

“I don’t know if they are dead or alive,” he told AFP news agency, his hands shaking. “I’m afraid of their fate. Only God knows.”

A 31-year-old man died from Thumane died in hospital on Wednesday morning and two other bodies were found in the rubble, Ora News reported.

A 24-year old was the latest to be brought alive just after night fell on Tuesday.

But a 30-year-old woman died hours after being pulled alive. Her daughter had died under the rubble.

Two brothers were among victims from neighbouring Kosovo, which is also observing a day of national mourning on Wednesday.

Media captionAlbania quake: Rescuers search for survivors

Hundreds of people spent the night in tents – or cars, fearing another tremor.

In Durres, a woman called Bukuri Morina and her family of 10 joined thousands of others to spend the night at the football stadium.

“We are afraid to go back to our apartment,” she told Reuters news agency.

“There are cracks all over and we are afraid that we will have the same destiny as people in Thumane.”

One man who died was caught in a car accident when the quake tore open parts of a road.

Another man died after jumping from a window in panic after the tremor struck.

All festivities coinciding with Albania’s independence day on Thursday have been cancelled.

Are earthquakes common in Albania?

The Balkans is in an area prone to seismic activity, lying close to a fault line between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates. Albania sits on a smaller, Adriatic tectonic plate.

Tuesday’s quake was Albania’s worst for decades.

In April 1979, a magnitude-6.9 quake hit Albania and northern neighbour Montenegro, leaving 136 dead and more than 1,000 injured.

That was described as the strongest ever recorded in the Balkans, more powerful than a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in July 1963 that killed more than 1,000 people in the Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Three-quarters of the capital Skopje was destroyed and 200,000 people left homeless.

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