Albania earthquake kills 16 as buildings bury residents

TIRANA/THUMANE: At least 16 people were killed when the most powerful earthquake to strike Albania in decades shook the capital Tirana and the country’s west and north on Tuesday, tearing down buildings and burying residents under rubble.
Residents, some carrying babies, fled apartment buildings in Tirana and the western port of Durres after the 6.4 magnitude quake struck shortly before 4 am (0300 GMT).
The Balkan country was jolted by 100 aftershocks after the big tremor, two of them of magnitude 5, testing strained nerves.
In the northern town of Thumane, Marjana Gjoka, 48, was sleeping in her apartment on the fourth floor of a five-storey building when the quake shattered the top floors.
“The roof collapsed on our head and I don’t know how we escaped. God helped us,” said Gjoka, whose three-year-old niece was among four people in the apartment when the quake struck.
The quake was centred 30 km west of Tirana, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, and was also felt across the Balkans and in the southern Italian region of Puglia.
Hours later a magnitude 5.4 earthquake hit Bosnia, with an epicentre 75 km south of Sarajevo, monitors said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Ten bodies were pulled from collapsed buildings in Durres, the main port and tourism destination, the Defence Ministry said, adding 42 had been pulled out alive from under the ruins.
In Thumane, five people were found dead in the rubble of apartment buildings and a man died in the town of Kurbin after jumping out of a building, the ministry added.
Firefighters, police and civilians were removing the debris from collapsed buildings in Thumane. Most of the buildings that collapsed were built of bricks, a Reuters reporter said.
Rescuers in Thumane used a mechanical digger to claw at collapsed masonry and remove a tangle of metal and cables. Others groped with bare hands to clear rubble.
Two people were pulled from rubble in Thumane four hours after the quake, a Reuters reporter said. Doctors said they were in a bad condition.
“Everything at home kept falling down,” Refik, a Tirana resident, said of the impact on his sixth-floor apartment.
“We were awake because of the previous quakes, but the last one shook us around,” he said, referring to smaller tremors recorded in the hour before the main quake.
Rescuers told local media one of the dead was an elderly woman who saved her grandson by cradling him with her body. — Reuters