Over 20 Dead As Albania Hunts For Earthquake Survivors

Emergency workers look for survivors trough the rubble of a damaged building in the coastal city of Durres, west of capital Tirana, after an earthquake hit Albania, on November 26, 2019. Gent SHKULLAKU / AFP


Albanian rescuers searched rubble through the night looking for survivors trapped in buildings that toppled Tuesday in the strongest earthquake to hit the country in decades, with more than 20 dead and hundreds injured.

Teams of soldiers, police and emergency workers sifted through the debris of shredded apartment blocks and hotels in towns near Albania’s northwest Adriatic coast, close to the epicentre of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rattled the country before dawn.

By evening the toll was 22 dead, according to the defence ministry.

Most were pulled from wreckage in the coastal city of Durres and Thumane, a town north of the capital Tirana.

In neighbouring Kurbin a man in his fifties died in the morning after jumping from his building in panic. Another perished in a car accident after the earthquake tore open parts of the road, the ministry said.

More than 40 people have also been retrieved alive in marathon rescue efforts that continued with headlamps and spotlights after the sun went down.

“The rescue teams will continue all night,” defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qehajaj told AFP.

“We must be careful because the night makes any operation more difficult,” she added.

Earlier in Thumane, locals watching emergency workers comb over a collapsed building shouted the names of their loved ones still inside: “Mira!”, “Ariela!”, “Selvije!”.

Dulejman Kolaveri, a man in his 50s in Thumane, told AFP he feared his 70-year-old mother and six-year-old niece were trapped inside the five-storey apartment, because they lived on the top floor.

“I don’t know if they are dead or alive. I’m afraid of their fate… only God knows,” he said with trembling hands.

There were also brief bursts of joy during the day as rescuers delicately extracted survivors.

One thin, middle-aged man covered in a film of grey dust was seen being carried out of the rubble on a stretcher in Thumane.

In Durres, onlookers cheered “Bravo!” as a team used ropes to rescue a young man from the wreckage of a toppled seaside hotel in a two-hour operation.

Night In The stadium

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.

Albania’s cities and coastline have undergone rapid development in recent decades, and illegal construction ignoring building codes is rife.

Felt Across the Balkans

Tuesday’s quake was the strongest to hit the Durres region since 1926, seismologist Rrapo Ormeni told local television.

Albanian authorities described it as the most powerful in the last 20-30 years.

It struck at 3:54 am local time (0254 GMT), with an epicentre 34 kilometres (about 20 miles) northwest of Tirana, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

In Tirana, panicked residents ran out onto the streets and huddled together after the quake struck.

Several powerful aftershocks followed, including one of 5.3 magnitude.

The tremors were felt across the Balkans, from Sarajevo to Belgrade and the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometres away, according to reports in local media and on social networks.

The Balkan peninsula lies near the fault line of two large tectonic plates — the African and Eurasian — and earthquakes are frequent.

The movements of the small Adriatic micro-plate also produces earthquakes, according to Kresimir Kuk from the Croatian seismological institute.

The most devastating quake in recent times hit North Macedonia’s capital Skopje in July 1963, killing around a thousand people and destroying some 80 percent of the city.

Four Dead, 150 Injured In Albania Earthquake

Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane, 34 kilometres (about 20 miles) northwest of capital Tirana, after an earthquake hit Albania, on November 26, 2019. Four people died and some 150 were slightly injured in Albania after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, the strongest in decades, rocked the Balkan country early Tuesday. PHOTO: GENT SHKULLAKU / AFP


Four people died and some 150 were slightly injured after a powerful 6.4 magnitude rocked Albania early on Tuesday, authorities said. 

A man in his fifties jumped out of his building in the town of Kurbin in a panic and died, the defence ministry said.

The bodies of a man and a woman were removed from rubble in Thumane, north of the capital Tirana, it said. A fourth body was found in the coastal town of Durres.

At least 150 people with injuries were being treated in hospitals in Tirana and Durres, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterliu said.

‘Thankful For Life’: Japan Disaster Survivors Meet Pope

Pope Francis (front, R) greets a man, one of ten disaster victims during a meeting with the victims of triple disaster in Tokyo on November 25, 2019. Pope Francis called for renewed efforts to help victims of Japan’s 2011 “triple disaster” of earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown, noting “concern” in the country over the continued use of nuclear power. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP



Survivors of Japan’s so-called “triple disaster”, the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, told Pope Francis on Monday they were “thankful for being given life” and urged solidarity with victims.

Toshiko Kato was at her job as head of a Catholic kindergarten in Iwate region when the quake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. The massive waves that killed nearly 16,000 people caused enormous destruction, including sweeping away her home.

“That morning, I could not have known that the daily life I had known before I left the house would end, that in an instant many people would die,” she told Francis.

“I remember that when I stood in the rubble where my home had been, I was thankful for being given life, for being alive, and for just being able to appreciate it.”

And Kato said she felt she had “received much more than I lost.”

“Many people from all over the world opened their hearts and I was able to find hope from seeing people come together to help one another,” she said.

“Life is the most important thing, and no good life is lost.”

The human cost of the quake and tsunami was enormous — with 18,500 dead or missing. The meltdown itself killed no one, but more than 3,700 people who survived the triple disaster later died as a result of complications related to evacuations.

Nearly half a million people fled their homes in the first days after the quake and even today, roughly 50,000 remain in temporary housing.

‘I Wanted To Die’

Among those forced to evacuate was Matsuki Kamoshita, who was eight when the nuclear meltdown happened.

His father, a teacher, remained in Fukushima region to help his students, while Kamoshita and his three-year-old brother moved from place to place with their mother.

“My brother would burrow into his futon and cry. I was bullied… and every day was so painful I wanted to die,” he told Francis, speaking steadily before the crowd.

“Eventually, my father got mentally and physically ill and stopped working. Even so, I still think we are fortunate because we were able to evacuate.”

Japan’s government has been encouraging people who evacuated to return to areas that have now been declared safe after extensive decontamination.

But many fear their former homes are not really safe, and others are reluctant to return to what have in some cases become ghost towns, with few services, particularly for young families.

In his address to survivors, Francis called for renewed efforts to support the victims of the disaster.

“In this way, those who are suffering will be supported and know that they have not been forgotten,” he said.

“We cannot fully convey our suffering,” Kamoshita told Francis, who he hugged after delivering his remarks.

“Pray with us, Holy Father, that we can appreciate each other’s pain and love our neighbours. Pray that even in this cruel reality, we will be given the courage not to turn our eyes away.”

One Dead As Strong 6.4-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Philippines


A child was killed in a strong 6.4-magnitude quake that hit the southern Philippines on Wednesday, a local mayor said, as houses collapsed, power was knocked out and a shopping mall burst into flames.

Residents evacuated homes and buildings across the Mindanao region including a mall that caught fire in the city of General Santos shortly after the quake struck in the evening, officials said.

The child died in a house collapse in the town of Datu Paglas, while four residents of nearby Tulunan town were injured when at least two other houses fell down, Tulunan Mayor Reuel Limbungan told AFP.

“The child was crushed by a collapsed house wall” and pronounced dead in hospital, Limbungan said, adding that he had visited the medical facility and spoken to its director.

Rescue and local officials said there were no immediate reports of deaths elsewhere in Mindanao, and rescue official Anthony Allada told local television that 20 people were treated for injuries in the town of Magsaysay, near the epicentre.

The quake was 14 kilometres (8.6 miles) deep and was followed by at least two aftershocks, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

“It was the most powerful earthquake I have ever experienced,” Sara Duterte, mayor of the largest Mindanao city of Davao and daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, told local television.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

 Falling debris 

An elderly man was treated for injuries after being struck by a falling object as a Davao mall was evacuated, local TV reported.

Jerome Barranco, civil defence officer for the region, said several people were also injured in the city of Kidapawan “as a result of falling debris”.

In General Santos, television footage showed firemen battling a raging blaze that engulfed the three-storey Gaisano shopping mall.

It was not known if there were still people inside the building, which was evacuated as the quake struck.

Coastal residents of Davao fled their homes in fear of a tsunami, but rescue workers were trying to convince them to return as no warning was issued, city civil defence chief Rodrigo Bustillo told local television.

“Our volunteers are out to calm the people and tell them there is no tsunami,” Bustillo added.

Chief Philippine government seismologist Renato Solidum said there was no risk of a tsunami because it occurred inland, but he advised residents to check their homes for possible damage.

“We ran out of the police station, and we also let the inmates at the municipal jail out,” patrolwoman Celina Sarte told AFP by telephone from the town of Bansalan.

She said the 10 prisoners were put in handcuffs outside moments later.


Eight Injured As 5.7-Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Istanbul

Office workers gather after fleeing their buildings in the Maslak District of Istanbul on September 26, 2019, following an earthquake in the city.  Ozan KOSE / AFP


A 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Turkey’s largest city on Thursday, driving residents to evacuate buildings, AFP journalists witnessed.

Eight people were “lightly injured”, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference in Istanbul.

“Some buildings have been lightly damaged,” he added.

Istanbul’s Bogazici University Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the quake’s centre was in the town of Silivri, around 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of the city.

It said the quake measured magnitude 5.7 and struck at 1:59pm (1059 GMT). Several smaller after-shocks were also recorded.

Turkish broadcasters showed images of a minaret tower that had been snapped in two.

Schools in Istanbul and nearby provinces of Bursa and Yalova were closed for the day, NTV broadcaster reported.

Istanbul lies near a major faultline and experts have forecast that a severe earthquake is due there in the coming years.

On August 17, 1999, a huge earthquake measuring 7.4 magnitude centred on the city of Izmit devastated vast areas in the country’s densely-populated northwestern zone, notably around Istanbul.

At least 17,400 people were killed including 1,000 within Turkey‘s economic capital.

A large quake could devastate the city of 15 million, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.


Earthquake Kills 19, Injures Dozens In Pakistan

A news cameraman films a damaged road following an earthquake on the outskirts of Mirpur on September 24, 2019.  AAMIR QURESHI / AFP


At least 19 people have been killed and 300 wounded after a shallow earthquake rattled north-eastern Pakistan, a senior police officer said, with the tremor tearing car-sized cracks into roads and heavily damaging infrastructure.

The quake sent people in cities across the country running into the streets, as cars near the epicentre were wedged in between massive cracks that ripped apart roads while other vehicles were upended by the tremor.

The epicentre of the 5.2-magnitude quake was near the Kashmiri city of Mirpur, roughly 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Jhelum in agricultural Punjab province, according to data released by the US Geological Survey.

On one of the district’s two main roads, AFP reporters could see cracks at least four feet deep, some filling with water from a nearby canal.

Ambulances could be seen, but Pakistani troops were preventing further travel. The military deployed “aviation and medical support” teams along with troops to affected areas in Kashmir, according to its spokesman.

Television footage showed cars trapped in some of the cracks, as well as a bus and a truck lying on their sides at the road’s edge.

“At least 19 people have been killed and more than 300 wounded,” said Sardar Gulfaraz, deputy inspector general of police in Mirpur, in televised comments.

However, the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority gave a lower toll at a press conference in Islamabad.

“I can confirm 10 deaths and the number of wounded is 100,” chairman Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal said, adding that he had received reports of a higher toll.

“Things are under control,” he said, adding that the nearby Mangla Dam, one of Pakistan’s two main water reservoirs, was unaffected by the quake.

The prime minister of Pakistani Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider Khan, told reporters that infrastructure had been “destroyed”.

Roads, mobile phone towers, and electricity poles in the area were badly damaged, Naeem Chughtai, a Mirpur resident living near the city’s main hospital, told AFP.

Witnesses Sajjad Jarral and Qazi Tahir, who spoke to AFP by telephone from Mirpur, said the quake had caused a building to collapse.

‘So anxious’

Mirpur, a city known for its palatial houses, has strong ties to Britain with the majority of its 450,000 residents carrying both British and Pakistani passports.

A spokeswoman at the British High Commission told AFP they were monitoring the reports, while the US embassy offered its sympathies to those affected via Twitter.

Tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, with the Press Trust of India reporting that panicked people rushed out of their homes and offices in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.

“The earthquake was felt but there are no reports of any damage,” Amir Ali, from the disaster management department in Indian-administered Kashmir, told AFP.

With Indian-held Kashmir’s mobile and internet services mostly cut off after the region’s autonomy was stripped by New Delhi in early August, people used social media to express fears about not being able to get in touch with their families in the valley.

“Dear @AmitShah (Home Affairs Minister) please restore mobile services in Kashmir I do not know any update since Aug 5 about my family. We are now feeling so anxious about our family in aftermath of Earthquake,” Faizan Peer tweeted.

Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.

In October 2015, a 7.5-magnitude quake in Pakistan and Afghanistan killed almost 400 people, flattening buildings in rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.

The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.


Houses Destroyed As 5.6-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Albania

Emergency workers clean the ruins of a collapsed building roof in Tirana on September 21, 2019, after two earthquakes above 5.0 magnitude struck the coastline Adriatic coastline of Albania.


A strong earthquake hit Albania Saturday afternoon, forcing residents into the street in several cities, triggering power cuts in the capital and the collapse of some buildings in a nearby village.

“There are no deaths,” Albania’s defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qajaj said.

“Some 20 people went to the hospital for light injuries caused by (falling) objects or parts of walls as well as for panic attacks,” she told AFP.

She added that houses and buildings in Tirana had been damaged but were still standing and that the ministry was accessing damage in other towns and villages.

Albania’s defence ministry said it was “the strongest earthquake in the country in last 20 to 30 years”.

The epicentre of the quake, with a magnitude of 5.6 and a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles), was located near Durres, less than 40 kilometres west of the capital Tirana, according to the US Geological Survey.

AFP reporters and witnesses saw windows broken and deep fissures in the facades of buildings in Durres, as well as in the capital. Merchandise in a supermarket was seen strewn over the floor.

Falling masonry had damaged parked cars in Tirana.

At the University of Tirana, the building housing the geology department was also damaged, according to witnesses.

Media reported that a big building in Tirana was seriously damaged and that residents were being evacuated.

According to local media reports, at least two people were lightly injured and a dozen houses collapsed in the village of Helmes, 10 kilometres from Tirana.

In Tirana, many people fearful of aftershocks remained outside their homes for several hours.

“I fear to return because such a strong earthquake could be followed with others,” a resident in her fifties, Drita Lohja, told AFP.

Two other earthquakes followed the strong one that occurred at around 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) and was felt in neighbouring Montenegro and Italy, but also on the Greek island of Corfu according to some Twitter users.

Electricity and telephone lines were cut off in Tirana and a number of other towns and villages.


Buildings Collapse As 5.8-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Southwest Turkey

A damaged building is seen after 6 magnitude earthquake hit Bozkurt district of Denizli, Turkey on August 08, 2019. Soner Kilinc / Anadolu Agency


A 5.8-magnitude earthquake was recorded in southwestern Turkey on Thursday, according to the US Geological Studies Institute, with reports of collapsed buildings but no serious casualties.

The earthquake was recorded in the province of Denizli near the town of Bozkurt at 1125 GMT, with a depth of around seven kilometres according to Turkish emergency services.

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“Some roofs collapsed, there were deep fissures, several houses collapsed,” Bozkurt mayor Birsen Celik told TV station NTV.

“No one was killed. There were no serious injuries,” he added.

Turkey lies on major faultlines and has suffered several quakes in the west and southwest of magnitude 5 and above since the start of the year.

The country is about to mark 20 years since the devastating twin quakes in 1999, both over magnitude-7, that hit a highly populated zone in the northwest, leaving some 20,000 dead.


Indonesia Quake Leaves One Dead, Several Injured

A villager looks for her belongings at her damage house in Pandeglang, Banten province on August 3, 2019, after a strong earthquake hit the area. SAMMY / AFP



At least one person died and several were injured after a powerful undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia’s heavily populated Java island, triggering a brief tsunami warning, officials said Saturday.

The 6.9 magnitude quake on Friday evening sent residents fleeing to higher ground, while many in the capital Jakarta ran into the streets.

Officials from Indonesia’s national disaster agency warned the quake could generate a tsunami as high as three metres (10 feet), but it was lifted several hours later.

On Saturday, authorities said a panicked 48-year-old woman had died of a heart attack as the strong quake rocked the region.

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Four more people were injured and over 1,000 evacuated to temporary shelters, said officials, including residents of neighbouring Sumatra island.

More than 100 buildings were damaged, with some 34 houses destroyed, the agency added.

“There was thundering noise — it sounded like a plane overhead — and I was just so scared that I ran,” said 69-year-old Isah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, at an evacuation shelter in Pandeglang at the southwest end of Java.

In December, the area was hit by a volcano-sparked tsunami that killed over 400 people.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.

On December 26, 2004, a devastating 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.


5.1-Magnitude Earthquake Knocks Out Phone Service In Greece

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org


A strong, shallow 5.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Athens on Friday, knocking out phone connections and causing power outages and minor damage, as worried residents rushed into the streets.

“It was a very intense quake, we were terrified, everyone started coming out (of the building),” said Katerina, who works in a six-storey cosmetics store.

One woman was lightly injured by falling plaster, reports said, and at least two abandoned buildings in the capital had collapsed, a government spokesman said.

News channels ran photos sent in by viewers, showing parked cars in central Athens damaged by fallen masonry.

“There are no reports of serious injury,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on television, adding that a small number of other buildings had suffered minor damage.

Petsas added that phone networks had become “overcharged” by the sheer number of users calling to check up on friends and family.

According to the Greek geodynamic institute, it was a 5.1-magnitude quake with an epicentre 23 kilometres (14 miles) northwest of Athens and was followed by several aftershocks.

The quake struck at around 1100 GMT at a depth of 13 kilometres, the institute said.

Worried residents and office staff have crowded outdoor areas but the government denied it had ordered an evacuation alert.

The fire department rescued dozens of people trapped in elevators in the capital, state broadcaster ERT said.

“People must remain calm,” said Efthymios Lekkas, head of the state anti-quake protection agency.

“There is no reason for concern. The capital’s buildings are built to withstand a much stronger earthquake,” he told ERT.

The epicentre was near the area where a 5.9-magnitude quake left 143 people dead in and near Athens in 1999.

The US geological institute said Friday’s quake had a magnitude of 5.3.

“For the time being we cannot be sure whether this was the main earthquake,” seismologist Gerassimos Papadopoulos told ERT.

“There have been at least three (smaller) aftershocks already, which is a positive sign,” he said, adding that the quake was felt as far as the Peloponnese islands.

“People in the capital must remain calm… they must be psychologically ready for more aftershocks,” he said.

News media reported electricity outages but said internet connections were still operating.

Greece lies on major fault lines and is regularly hit by earthquakes, but they rarely cause casualties.

In July 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake killed two people on the island of Kos in the Aegean sea, causing significant damage.


Two Die, Thousands Flee After 7.3-Magnitude Earthquake Ravages Indonesia


At least two people have been found dead and thousands were forced from their homes after a major 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit the remote Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia, an official said Monday.

The shallow quake struck about 165 kilometres (100 miles) south of the town of Ternate in North Maluku province on Sunday evening, according to the US Geological Survey.

In the sparsely populated South Halmahera district, the closest area to the epicentre, around 160 houses collapsed or were damaged when the earthquake struck.

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Two women died after being hit by debris, officials said.

The quake also forced traumatised residents to flee to the higher ground.

“More than 2,000 people have been moved,” national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibowo told a press conference Monday.

The evacuees are sheltering in several schools and government buildings.

Local disaster agency official Ihsan Subur said most people were still traumatised and refused to return home for fear of another earthquake or a possible tsunami.

Indonesia’s weather agency said at least 65 aftershocks have been recorded between the initial quake and Monday morning.

Government officials have started to distribute food and other relief supplies for the evacuees.

North Maluku province was also hit by a 6.9-magnitude tremor last week but no extensive damage or casualties were reported.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.

On December 26, 2004, a devastating 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.


Major 7.3 Earthquake Hits Eastern Indonesia


A major 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit the remote Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia Sunday, sending panicked residents running into the streets but no tsunami warning was issued.

The quake struck about 165 kilometres (100 miles) south-southwest of the town of Ternate in North Maluku province at 6:28 pm local time, at a depth of 10 kilometres, according to the US Geological Survey.

“The earthquake was quite strong, sending residents to flee outside, they are panicking and many are now waiting on the roadside,” local disaster mitigation official Mansur, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

Officials were assessing the situation but there were no immediate reports of casualties, Mansur said.

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The province was also hit by a 6.9-magnitude tremor last week but no extensive damage was reported.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people with another thousand declared missing.

On December 26, 2004, a devastating 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.