News ID: 262317
Published: 0304 GMT November 30, 2019

Albania quake toll hits 50 as search for survivors ends: Premier

Albania quake toll hits 50 as search for survivors ends: Premier

The death toll from a powerful earthquake in Albania has risen to 50 as the search for survivors was called off, Prime Minister Edi Rama said Saturday.

The 6.4 magnitude quake, which hit the Balkan country before dawn on Tuesday, was the most deadly and destructive in decades, and left about 5,000 people homeless.

"The number of earthquake victims reached 50 and rescue operations have ended," Rama told a cabinet meeting, while struggling to hold back tears, Presstv Reported.

Entire families were crushed in their homes while they were sleeping, forcing relatives and neighbors to watch in agony as rescue teams pulled bodies from the ruins this week.

About 900 people were injured, of whom 41 are still hospitalized, according to the defense ministry.

The damage was worst near the Adriatic coast in the port city of Durres and the town of Thumane, where scores of people were trapped beneath the wreckage of apartment buildings and hotels.

The funeral of eight members of the Lala family, including four children, killed in Durres was to be held later on Saturday.

Only one member of the family, Rame Lala, 19, survived when his four-story home collapsed.

He sustained serious injuries and was evacuated to Italy for specialized care with two other victims.

Nearly 2,500 people from the worst-hit areas have been moved into hotels or other buildings.

Another 3,480 people in the capital Tirana, where there were no casualties, fled to shelters, with some now housed in reception centers and others staying in the homes of relatives, Rama said.

The prime minister on Saturday expressed "deep gratitude" to rescue teams from Albania and around Europe, which had pulled some 50 people from the ruins.

Rama met a French team in Durres on Friday, commenting that "two weeks ago, football world champions were in Albania", in reference to a Euro 2020 qualifying match against France.

Now, "world champions in rescuing the lives of others" had arrived, he said on Twitter.

Rana also attended the burials of nine people from two families who died in Thumane.

Towns in one of Europe's poorest countries, which has a population of 2.8 million people, developed chaotically after the fall of communism in the 1990s.

Experts state that a large proportion of construction took place without respect for building codes and using cheap materials.

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