Albania earthquake: Biggest quake in decades sparks panic

The Balkan nation of Albania has been hit by a powerful earthquake that has killed at least six people. Residents have been trapped underneath collapsed buildings.

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Albania early on Tuesday morning, triggering several building collapses and six deaths. 

At least 300 people were injured in the strongest earthquake to hit the Balkan nation in decades. The epicenter was 10 kilometers (6 miles) northwest of Shijak, between Durres and the capital Tirana, at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers, according to the US Geological Survey.

A man in his 50s was killed while jumping out of a building during the tremor, according to officials. Others were killed in building collapses in the coastal city of Durres and in Thuman. One of those killed was an elderly woman who saved her grandson by cradling him with her body, emergency workers told local media.

“Firefighters and army staff are helping residents (caught) under the rubble,” in Durres and the nearby village of Thumane, a Defense Ministry spokesperson told reporters.

President Ilir Meta told journalists that “the situation is very dramatic. All efforts are being done to take the people out of the ruins.” He called on the Cabinet to request international assistance.

Neighboring Kosovo was sending an emergency team to help with rescue efforts, while the European Union and the United States both offered immediate have all offered immediate support.

Tuesday’s quake was the second to hit the country in two months and was felt along the Adriatic coast. 

Family trapped

One unidentified man told local television that his daughter and niece were trapped in the rubble of an apartment building. 

“I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and are waiting for the rescue. I could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them,” the man said.

National police warned people in affected areas to avoid driving so emergency services could reach victims, but also to stay out of buildings for fear of further collapses.

Three hours after the inital tremor, a strong aftershock was felt in Tirana.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said all government agencies were “intensively working to save lives at the fatal spots in Durres and Thumane.”

“It is a dramatic moment where we should preserve calmness, stay alongside each other to cope with this shock,” Rama wrote on his Facebook page.

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe, in September, damaging about 500 houses and destroying others. 

The latest quake was reportedly also felt in the southern Italian regions of Puglia and Basilicata.

aw/stb (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)  – Nov. 26, 2019

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