Albanian rescuers are today continuing their search for survivors after working through the night to retrieve victims of the country’s worst earthquake in decades.
At least 24 people are dead and there are fears that more are trapped under the rubble after the 6.4-magnitude tremor and a series of aftershocks caused widespread damage.
Rescue workers have set up tents at a football stadium in Durres, a coastal city which was badly damaged in the quake and where buildings have been reduced to rubble.
There was also severe damage in the capital city Tirana, 20 miles from the epicentre of the quake, and in the town of Thumane where the body of a five-year-old girl was pulled from the rubble.
Civilian and military rescuers are today continuing their search with 43 people pulled out of the rubble alive so far, as marathon rescue efforts continued with headlamps and spotlights after the sun went down.
Meanwhile the Albanian Red Cross said it had deployed doctors, first aid workers and 160 volunteers and was providing urgent medical assistance, food and water for survivors.
Search and rescue: Emergency personnel continue their search for survivors of the Albanian earthquake yesterday morning, scouring the debris of a collapse building in the town of Thumane
Sleeping in tents: People set up temporary accommodation in Thumane last night after the town was badly hit by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake which shook the country on Tuesday morning
All-night operation: Emergency workers with helmets and headlamps continue their search for survivors in the early hours of this morning, with more earthquake victims feared trapped under the rubble
Temporary accommodation: Albanian residents sit on blankets in front of tents in Thumane last night following the quake
Second day of the search: Emergency personnel stand on debris of a collapsed building following Tuesday’s powerful earthquake in Thumane
Wrapping up: People cover themselves with blankets as search and rescue works continue in Thumane on Tuesday night
Rescue workers with an excavator stand on the debris of collapsed buildings following Tuesday’s earthquake in Thumane
Pulled from the wreckage: Rescuers pull the body of a five-year-old girl from the wreckage in Thumane, a town in Albania which suffered severe damage on Tuesday in a 6.4-magnitude earthquake
Pulled out alive: Emergency workers carry an injured woman from the debris at a damaged building in Thumane, Albania
An aerial view of one of the buildings which was left in ruins by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Thumane on Tuesday
Most of the bodies found so far were pulled from the wreckage in Durres and Thumane where the earthquake damage is at its worst.
Defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qehajaj promised on Tuesday evening that the rescue teams would ‘continue all night’, warning that the darkness would make the operation ‘more difficult’.
Afraid to return home after a series of powerful aftershocks, hundreds of people in Durres took shelter for the night in tents set up in the city’s football stadium.
The health ministry said that more than 600 people have received first aid for injuries, mostly minor.
During a visit to victims in a hospital in Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama told local media that Wednesday would be a national ‘day of mourning’.
‘We have lost human lives, we have also saved a lot of lives,’ he said.
Some 300 local soldiers and 1,900 police were sent to Durres and Thumane to assist with the rescue efforts, according to authorities.
Aid also poured in from around Europe, with teams from Italy, Greece and Romania among those deployed to help after the strongest earthquake to hit the Durres region since 1926.
Albania’s cities and coastline have undergone rapid development in recent decades, and illegal construction ignoring building codes is rife.
Rescuers search at a damaged building after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Thumane, western Albania
One injured survivor of the earthquake – Perparim Greku, 28 – is carried into an ambulance in Thumane on Tuesday
A team of emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake
Wreckage: Emergency personnel work at the scene of a damaged building in Thumane after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Albania, killing several people and injuring dozens
Rescuers climb over the rubble of a damaged building in Thumane following an earthquake in which at least 14 have died
A dead body covered in a metal sheet is carried away on a stretcher by soldiers and civilians in Durres on Tuesday morning
Trapped: A car is stuck under the wreckage of a collapsed building in the coastal town of Durres in Albania
Rescue: Military and emergency personnel put an injured man on a stretcher near a damaged building in Thumane, Albania
An emergency worker tries to calm a woman crying as her relatives are trapped in a building after an earthquake hit Thumane
Afraid to return home after a series of powerful aftershocks, hundreds of people in Durres took shelter for the night in tents set up in the city’s football stadium
A mother holds her sleeping child at a makeshift camp in a soccer field following a deadly earthquake in Durres, Albania
Children sleep in a soccer field at a makeshift camp , following a deadly earthquake in Durres, Albania on Tuesday
Charity workers check on the victims in a makeshift camp in Thumane after an earthquake shook the area on Tuesday
Paramedics and police officers continue the rescue mission into the night in Thumane, Albania, after the earthquake
On Tuesday morning, Albania’s president Ilir Meta said that the ‘situation is very dramatic’ and promised that ‘all efforts are being done to take people out of the ruins.’
Emergency workers told local media that one of those killed was an elderly woman who had managed to save her grandson by cradling him with her body.
One man died in a car accident after the earthquake tore open parts of the road, the Defence Ministry said, while another man in his fifties jumped from a collapsing building.
In total at least three hotels, a residential villa and an apartment building collapsed in Durres, and one apartment building in Thumane.
‘Firefighters and army staff are helping residents [caught] under the rubble’, in Durres and nearby Thumane, a ministry spokeswoman told reporters.
In Thumane Marjana Gjoka, 48, was sleeping in her apartment on the fourth floor of a five-storey building when the quake shattered the two 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.
A man in Durres told local television that his daughter and niece were trapped in the rubble of an apartment building.
‘I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and are waiting for the rescue. I could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them,’ the man said.
Rescuers try to free a man from a collapsed building after an earthquake in Thumane, western Albania earlier on Tuesday
Dozens of people watch emergency personnel as they work with a crane, next to a collapsed building, in Durres
Rescuers help move a survivor from the rubble of a collapsed building in Thumane, northwest of capital Tirana
Citizens wrap up warm in fleece blankets as they sit in a field after the earthquake, which hit Thumane, Albania on Tuesday
Soldiers carry a victim of the 6.4-magnitude earthquake from a fallen building, wrapped in a red and black blanket
Witnesses said at least one hotel, the four-storey Mira Mare in Durres, was destroyed, while another building in the city centre was badly damaged (Pictured: a damaged building in Durres)
Rescue crews used excavators to search for survivors trapped in toppled apartment buildings after the earthquake
At one stage there were 21 earthquakes strong enough to be felt in an 11-hour period as a series of aftershocks rattled the country.
The Interior Ministry has also asked people to avoid driving in the affected areas to allow emergency services to operate freely.
Pictures at the scenes of worst damage showed buildings with large cracks and fallen masonry, including one apartment with most of a bedroom wall missing.
Another witness described residents fleeing apartment buildings in Tirana, some carrying babies. Power was down in several neighbourhoods. TV footage showed a child being pulled from the rubble.
Three hours after the main tremor, a strong aftershock rocked the city, which is known for its colourful mix of architecture from its Ottoman, Fascist and Soviet past.
The US Geological Survey warned an earthquake of that size had the potential to cause widespread damage and casualties.
Turkey’s ambassador to Albania said a group of some 20 Turkish nationals were rescued from a hotel that was damaged in the earthquake. They were rescued with slight injuries and are being evacuated to Tirana, he said.
By Tuesday evening, rescue teams from neighbouring Kosovo, Montenegro, Italy, Greece and Romania had arrived.
A woman is carried by emergency workers who were responding to the earthquake damage in Thumane on Tuesday morning
People inspect the damage to a three-storey building in Durres after dawn broke yesterday with heavy damage in Albania
A team of emergency personnel in high-vis jackets work with diggers on a pile of debris in Albania on Tuesday morning
Emergency workers carry an injured woman from the debris at a damaged building in Thumane
A digger is in place to begin clearing up the rubble from a damaged building in Thumane as dawn breaks in Albania
Emergency workers on the scene of a collapsed building in Durres where a Mercedes was trapped under the rubble
An Albanian resident wearing a coat takes a picture of a building which was badly damaged by the earthquake
Onlookers stand near a damaged building in Durres yesterday morning where people were being rescued from the rubble
A map showing the location of the earthquake north of Durres, on the west coast of Albania
Military personnel and locals remove debris from damaged buildings after the earthquake struck in Thumane
Footage online showed the wreckage of the Mira Mare hotel, a four-storey building in Durres that had been totally destroyed
Serbia, North Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Germany, France, Estonia, Turkey and the Czech Republic also offered help, while the EU delegation to Albania said additional EU assets were on standby should they be needed.
‘My thoughts are with the victims and all the people affected by the disaster,’ EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management Christos Stylianides said.
At least three apartment buildings and the power distribution station were damaged in Thumane, knocking out power in the morning. The electricity supply was restored later in the day.
Many reports of shaking came from the North Macedonian capital Skopje, 100 miles north east of the epicenter of Durres. One local, Eva Ellereit, tweeted: ‘Nothing like waking up to your entire bedroom shaking in the middle of the night #earthquake.’
Several smaller tremors were recorded in the hour before the main quake, which was also felt across the Balkans and in the southern Italian region of Puglia.
Tuesday’s quake was the strongest to hit the Durres region since 1926, seismologist Rrapo Ormeni told local television.
In September a 5.6-magnitude quake in almost the same spot injured at least 70 people and damaged around 500 buildings. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake would be around 16 times stronger than that, experts said.
Soldiers and civilians conduct search and rescue operation at a damaged building in the coastal city of Durres
Emergency workers climb up a pile of rubble as they search for survivors and begin to clean up the earthquake damage
People stand near a damaged building after an earthquake which was felt across hundreds of miles of Eastern Europe
A close-up view of part of a ruined building in Thumane where only a door and some brickwork are left standing
Emergency personnel and a crane work at the site of a ruined building in Thumane where there was significant damage
Residents gather outdoors in Tirana after the earthquake struck. Some locals were sent rushing into the streets in panic
Residents gather outdoors in Tirana after the tremors in the Albanian capital in the early hours of yesterday morning
Reports of violent shaking came from across the region, including the capital cities of Tirana in Albania and Skopje in Macedonia