Albania: Powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake hits Tirana

Media captionRescue workers searched a collapsed building in Thumane

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake has hit Albania, bringing down buildings and leaving people trapped under rubble.

At least six people have died. One man died after jumping from a window in panic, a defence ministry spokeswoman confirmed.

The quake hit 34 km (21 miles) northwest of the capital, Tirana, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

It was felt across the region, in Italy and in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, almost 700 km away.

Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter: “We have victims. We are working to do everything possible in the affected areas.”

An Albanian government spokesperson says more than 300 people have received medical help in Tirana and Durres. Schools will be closed for the day.

Emergency workers told Albanian media that one of the dead was an elderly woman who had managed to save her grandson by cradling him with her body.

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Image caption

Authorities have described the quake as the strongest of the last 20-30 years

A defence ministry spokeswoman confirmed firefighters and army staff were helping residents caught under the rubble in the coastal city of Durres, where three were killed.

Two of those who died were in the town of Thumane, 40km to the north west of Tirana and close to the epicentre of the earthquake. There were fears that more people were trapped under rubble.

The man who died when jumping from a balcony was killed further north in Kurbin.

A man in Durres told local news channel News24 that his daughter and niece were among those trapped inside a collapsed apartment building.

“I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and waiting for the rescue. Could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them.”

Rescuers in the city were seen trying to free a young boy trapped in the rubble.

There have been a number of aftershocks, including one of 5.3 magnitude, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said. The Balkans is in an area prone to seismic activity.

Tuesday’s earthquake has been described by authorities as the strongest to hit Albania in 20-30 years.

In 1979, a magnitude 6.9 quake hit Albania leaving 136 dead and more than one thousand injured.

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