Albania earthquake: Arrests over deaths in collapsed buildings

A bulldozer works at a collapsed building in DurresImage copyright

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Several buildings collapsed in the coastal city of Durres

Nine people have been arrested in Albania on suspicion of murder and abuse of power over the collapse of buildings in last month’s earthquake.

Two of those arrested on murder charges owned hotels that collapsed in the city of Durres, one of the areas worst hit.

Both hotels had been built illegally and one of them had also been irregularly legalised, police said. Illegal construction has been rife in Albania since the fall of communism in 1990.

The 6.4-magnitude quake left 51 dead.

The tremor, the strongest to hit the country in decades, struck in the early hours of the morning on 26 November as most people were asleep. More than 14,000 people were left homeless.

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In total, prosecutors issued 17 arrest warrants for builders, engineers and officials suspected of breaching safety standards. Eight of the suspects are still being sought and police said some had fled the country after the earthquake.

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The earthquake was the strongest to hit Albania in decades

More than 14,000 buildings were damaged and engineers were still determining which ones are structurally safe, AP news agency reports.

After the fall of communism in the early 1990s, many residents moved to cities, where construction was made with little government supervision. Many of the buildings have been legalised since then.

The quake struck 34km (21 miles) north-west of the Albanian capital, Tirana. Most of the deaths occurred in Durres and Thumane, close to the epicentre.

The Balkans is in an area prone to seismic activity, lying close to a fault line between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates. Albania sits on a smaller, Adriatic tectonic plate.

Meanwhile, the European Commission – the EU executive – said member states had agreed to hold a donors’ conference in Tirana in January.

Media captionQuake survivors hugged by Ronaldo and Buffon