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16 dead, 600 injured in Albania quake

16 dead, 600 injured in Albania quake
People stand next to a damaged building after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Durres, western Albania on Tuesday. (AP)
Thumane, Nov 26 (AP) | Publish Date: 11/26/2019 9:58:32 AM IST

Rescue crews used excavators to search for survivors trapped in toppled apartment buildings Tuesday after a powerful pre-dawn earthquake in Albania killed at least 16 people and injured more than 600.

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

In nearby Bosnia, another temblor with a preliminary magnitude of 5.4 struck southeast of the capital and rattled Sarajevo. There were no immediate reports of casualties and only minor damage in that earthquake.

The quake in Albania 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.

 “It is a dramatic moment where we should preserve calm, stay alongside each other to cope with this shock,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

The Health Ministry reported about 600 people had been injured, with some in serious condition.

The US Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.4 quake, which struck just before 4 am local time, had an epicentre 30 kilometres (19 miles) northwest of the capital, Tirana, at a depth of 20 kilometres (12 miles). 

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

The Defense Ministry said seven bodies were pulled from rubble in the coastal city of Durres, 33 kilometres (20 miles) west of the capital Tirana and five people were found dead in a collapsed apartment building in the northern town of Thumane.  One person died after jumping from his home to escape in Kurbin, 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the capital, while another person was killed on a road that collapsed in the northern town of Lezha.

Local television stations showed footage of a young boy being pulled from a collapsed building in Durres after an excavator moved a broken slab of concrete and local men pulled mangled reinforcement bars out of the way. Hours later, live TV footage showed people cheering when a child was found alive in a collapsed building in Durres where a body had been found earlier.

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

Authorities reported scores of aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.5 and called on people in the most affected areas to stay out of their homes and avoid driving in the affected areas to allow emergency vehicles free access. 

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