Across Albania, survivors of Tuesday’s earthquake are combing the wreckage of homes and buildings and seeking signs of life in the rubble. A day later, amid the flotsam of cratered neighborhoods and improvised tent cities, Albanians are observing a national day of mourning for those they lost — and hoping that those still missing won’t soon be counted among the dead.
At least 31 people reportedly have been killed, according to the Albanian Red Cross, and hundreds more have been injured. It is the deadliest earthquake to hit the country since 1979, when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake left more than 120 people dead in Albania and across the border in the former Yugoslavia.
A day of mourning was also observed Wednesday in Kosovo, whose foreign affairs minister, Behgjet Pacolli, announced that two Kosovar brothers were among the victims.
In the Albanian cities of Thumane and Durres, the two cities hardest-hit by the 6.4 magnitude quake, teams of rescuers deployed dogs, drones and heavy equipment to try to find survivors and pry them free. Rescue workers from more than a dozen countries have joined the efforts — including Serbia, Italy, Turkey and many others from Albania’s Balkan neighbors.
However, the operations were complicated by a series of sizable aftershocks that struck Wednesday just off-coast in the Adriatic Sea — one of which was large enough to cause authorities to call a pause to their work for their own safety.
Roughly 2,500 people in Albania have been displaced by the quake, and hundreds have gathered in makeshift camps and cars, while others have assembled inside a soccer stadium in Durres. Still others have holed up in hotels in the capital, Tirana.
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In a country that has the lowest gross domestic product per capital in Europe, per the International Monetary Fund, these losses threaten to leave survivors in desperate straits.
“The quake left us without shelter,” one survivor from Thumane told The Associated Press. “Everything we have is destroyed: The apartment, windows, everything, and we cannot live there anymore.”
It is the second major earthquake in the past three months to strike Albania. Back in September, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake hit the country’s central region, near Tirana, though no one was killed in that temblor. Dozens were injured, however, and several buildings collapsed in some towns.