Forty dead as families pulled from Albania earthquake rubble


news agency
The death toll from the most powerful earthquake to strike Albania in decades rose to 40 on Thursday after more bodies were pulled from the wreckage overnight in a tragedy that has wiped out whole families. The 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the Balkan state while people were sleeping just before 4:00 am (0300 GMT) on Tuesday, razing buildings and trapping victims beneath the debris in towns near the Adriatic coast.
Rescue teams were still shovelling away massive chunks of collapsed apartments and hotels in the coastal city of Durres, where nearly 30 buildings were badly damaged. Teams from around Europe have flown in to help with the effort, bringing dogs and specialised cameras to hunt for survivors, around 50 of whom have been pulled out alive, mostly on Tuesday.
As the operation stretched into day three, rescuers insisted there was still reason to hope for more survival stories.
“There may be hope for up to eight or ten days” for victims to live after an earthquake, Captain Joel Leroy, a French rescuer, told media. His team of around 50 was searching for two people believed to be buried at the site of seven-story building in Durres, where two or three floors toppled over and sunk into the ground.
Victims may still be in “survival pockets” of air that allow them to breathe under the rubble, he explained. “That’s why we are working so hard, we believe in it,” he added.
Search efforts ceased Thursday in the other hard-hit town of Thumane, where the defence ministry said there were no more missing after more than 20 bodies were pulled out in recent days.
During the night, emergency workers uncovered the corpses of a mother and son from the Reci family, found in an embrace.
They were crushed by the weight of a collapsed six-storey building in Durres.
The whole family has now perished in the quake, with the bodies of a father and daughter pulled out the day before, according to Ilir Duka, an Albanian rescuer at the scene.
Similar tragedies have befallen other families as the pre-dawn quake shattered their homes.
Loved ones have watched on in horror as rescuers pulled out bodies covered in a grey film of dust, many in their pyjamas.
On Tuesday a woman was heard crying out from inside a wrecked building, where she was stuck inside with a dead child. She was eventually rescued but later died in hospital.
‘Hope dies last’
Around 50 survivors have been hospitalised and are “in a state of shock and worried about their loved ones”, defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qehajaj told AFP.
The number of people who may still be buried in the rubble is unknown.