Buildings down after strongest tremor in decades hits Albania

Buildings down after strongest tremor in decades hits Albania

Buildings down after strongest tremor in decades hits Albania

The most powerful earthquake to hit Albania in decades rocked the capital of Tirana and nearby port town of Durres early on Nov. 26, causing at least two buildings to collapse and trapping residents in the rubble, officials said.

The 6.4 magnitude quake struck shortly before 4 a.m. local time, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, the second powerful tremor to hit the region in two months.

It was centered 30 km (19 miles) west of Tirana, at a shallow depth of 10 km (6 miles), the USGS said.

At least 13 people have been killed, several more are missing and hundreds have been injured so far, according to officials.

Unverified video footage posted on social media showed what appeared to be a collapsed building in Durres, 40 km west of Tirana, on the Adriatic coast.

Other footage showed buildings with large cracks and fallen masonry, including one apartment with most of a bedroom wall missing, and a car burst into flames apparently caused by a short-circuit from a triggered car alarm.

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

An unidentified man, with a wound dressing on his right cheek, told News24 TV his daughter and niece were among those trapped in a collapsed apartment building.

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

Two government spokesmen told Reuters the biggest damage to buildings was in Durres and a few people had been taken to hospital in Tirana.

A Reuters witness described residents fleeing apartment buildings in Tirana, some carrying babies. Power was down in several neighborhoods.

Several smaller tremors were recorded in the hour before the main quake, which also was felt in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

“We were awake because of the previous quakes, but the last one shook us around. Everything at home kept falling down,” Refik, a Tirana resident, told Reuters of what happened in his sixth-floor apartment.

Turkey conveys condolences to Albania

Meanwhile, Turkey conveyed condolences to Albania over the earthquake that hit the country.

"We received the news with deep sorrow that an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude occurred in Albania this morning (26 November), whose epicenter was on the Adriatic Sea, 10 km [6.2 miles] off the town of Durres," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.

It extended "heartfelt condolences" to the people of Albania for the loss of lives, and wished speedy recovery to the injured.

"Turkey, as always, is side by side with Albania in the face of this catastrophe. A search and rescue and a medical team have been dispatched by our country and will be transferred to Tirana today by military plane," it added.

Stressing solidarity with the government and people of Albania, it said Turkey is "ready to provide any assistance that may be needed".

Turkey's Ambassador to Tirana Murat Ahmet Yöruk also said Turkey is preparing to send a search and rescue team as well as a medical team.

"We have got in touch with Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency [AFAD] after meeting with the authorities of Tirana. They are preparing to send a search rescue team as well as a medical team during the day," Yörük told Anadolu Agency.

He added that about 300 to 500 buildings collapsed in Durres city.

"According to preliminary information, between 300 and 500 buildings collapsed. Some Turkish citizens were staying in a hotel in the port city of Durres. The hotel collapsed, but they have survived the disaster with minor injuries. One of them had a problem with the waist. So we sent an ambulance from Tirana," he said.

The ambassador also said the Turkish embassy also sent a vehicle to evacuate the citizens in Durres, and added: "They are in good condition. Naturally, they are scared but we are expecting them to our embassy to rehabilitate them before returning to Turkey".

Yoruk added that so far they have not received a request for assistance with Turkish citizens living in the country.

The Albanian Health Ministry said 150 people were injured due to the earthquake.

Located along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, between Greece and Macedonia, Albania experiences regular seismic activity.

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 shook the country on Sept. 21, damaging around 500 houses and destroying some. Albania's Defense Ministry had said it was the most powerful quake in Albania in the last 30 years.

The Balkan nation is the poorest country in Europe, with an average income of less than a third of the European Union average, according to Eurostat data.