Albania earthquake: Hopes of finding survivors fade

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Relatives of people whose homes were destroyed in Albania’s most powerful earthquake in decades are awaiting news, as rescuers find more bodies in the rubble and the death toll rises to 40.

“Ten more victims were found during the night,” Albania’s defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday morning.

Children were among those killed when a magnitude-6.4 quake hit on Tuesday.

Rescue teams from Serbia, Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland, Turkey and Croatia are helping with the search.

Rescue teams from Italy search for bodies in the rubble of a building in Durres, Albania, 27 November 2019
Image captionThe Italian fire service search the rubble of a residential building in the Albanian city of Durres

“Our teams have been working uninterruptedly since last night. It is a very, very difficult situation,” Italian fire service spokesman Luca Cari told Ansa news agency.

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has declared a state of emergency – enabling more funds and security – in the coastal city of Durres and the inland town of Thumane, the two areas worst affected.

A rescue dog searches for survivors in a collapsed building in Durres, after an earthquake shook Albania, 28 November 2019
Image captionA rescue dog searches for survivors in Durres, where residents sought refuge at a football stadium

Sniffer dogs are being used to help find people trapped beneath the rubble and military officers have joined the rescue efforts.

So far, 45 people have been recovered alive from different locations and are receiving hospital treatment. But one person who was pulled alive from the rubble in Thumane later died from his injuries.

Emergency personnel carry a body on a stretcher as they work in a collapsed building in Durres
Image captionWhile dozens of bodies have already been recovered, there are fears more lives have been lost

But whole families have perished and hundreds of people have been injured as a result of the earthquake and a series of powerful aftershocks.

Flags are flying at half-mast on public buildings around the country as Albania observes a national day of mourning.

Search and rescue teams in Durres, Albania, 28 November 2019
Image captionTall residential buildings in Durres were completely destroyed in the magnitude-6.4 quake

Gregor Rama, the prime minister’s son, posted on social media that his girlfriend and members of her family had been killed.

People stand in front of a collapsed building in the town of Durres, western Albania 27 November 2019
Image captionA collapsed home in Durres, one of the cities most heavily struck in the disaster

It is not clear how many people remain unaccounted for.

Relatives of residents living in a collapsed building wait as Italian rescue officers search through the rubble in Thumane, 27 November 2019
Image captionRelatives of residents living in a collapsed building in Thumane wait for news of their loved ones

The quake struck 34km (21 miles) north-west of the Albanian capital, Tirana, during the early hours of the morning as most people were asleep.

A view of the damage at the site after an earthquake hit Thumane district in Durres, Albania 27 November 2019
Image captionThe inland town of Thumane was one of the worst affected areas

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

Onlookers watch as Italian rescuers search through the rubble of a collapsed building in Thumane, 27 November 2019

Prime Minister Rama has promised that rescuers will “continue to search patiently and thoroughly to the end”, and said that all those affected would be sheltered in hotels until the government had rebuilt their homes.

Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) arrive after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Albania's Durres city, 26 November 2019
Image captionKosovo Security Forces (KSF) are providing emergency assistance in Durres

Of the several countries providing support, the largest deployment of personnel has come from the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF). The troops are specially trained to help with natural disasters.

Kosovo has also sent police to Albania to help maintain law and order.

As well as those buried in their homes when the quake struck, one man died in a car accident when part of a road was torn open and another man did not survive after leaping from his balcony in panic.

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