Thursday 12 December 2019

At least six people killed and more than 200 injured as 6.4 magnitude quake strikes Albania

Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane
(Photo by GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP via Getty Images)
Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane (Photo by GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP via Getty Images)
Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane (Photo by GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP via Getty Images)

Llazar Semini

RESCUE crews used excavators to search for survivors trapped in toppled apartment buildings after a powerful pre-dawn earthquake in Albania killed at least six people and injured more than 300.

The 6.4 magnitude quake was felt across the southern Balkans early on Tuesday and was followed by multiple aftershocks.

In nearby Bosnia, another temblor with a preliminary magnitude of 5.4 struck south-east of the capital and rattled Sarajevo.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in that earthquake.

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Greece and Kosovo promised to help with rescuers in Albania.

"It is a dramatic moment where we should preserve calm, stay alongside each other to cope with this shock," Prime Minister Edi Rama said, thanking countries that offered support.

Mr Rama said neighbouring countries, the European Union and the US had offered to send assistance.

Mr Rama said he had spoken to his Italian, Greek and Turkish counterparts and with the EU and US embassies in Tirana.

The quake collapsed at least three apartment buildings while people slept, and rescue crews were working to free people believed trapped.

There was no indication as to how many people might still be buried in the rubble.

Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane
(Photo by GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP via Getty Images)
Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane (Photo by GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP via Getty Images)

The US Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.4 quake, which struck just before 4am local time, had an epicentre 19 miles north-west of the capital, Tirana, at a depth of 12 miles.

Scores of aftershocks included three with preliminary magnitudes of between 5.1 and 5.4.

Local television stations showed footage of a young boy being pulled from a collapsed building after an excavator moved a broken slab of concrete and local men pulled mangled reinforcement bars out of the way.

Neighbouring Kosovo was sending an emergency crew, while Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis ordered a fire department rescue unit specialising in disaster response to travel to Albania, Greek authorities said.

The Turkish ambassador also said his country was sending a team of rescuers and medics.

The bodies of three people were removed from a collapsed building in the coastal city of Durres, 20 miles west of the capital Tirana, the Defense Ministry said.

Another two people were found dead and removed from the rubble of a building in Thumane, while one person died after jumping from his home to escape shaking from the quake in Kurbin, 30 miles north of the capital.

Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said around 300 injured people were treated in Durres, Tirana and Thumane.

All government agencies were on alert and "intensively working to save lives at the fatal spots in Durres and Thumane," Mr Rama said.

The quake was felt along the Albanian coast as well as neighbouring Kosovo, Montenegro, Greece, and parts of southern Serbia.

At least three apartment buildings and the power distribution station were damaged in Thumane.

An earthquake in September in roughly the same area damaged hundreds of homes.

PA Media

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