Dozens of people were injured in several earthquakes in the Balkan state of Albania and there was considerable material damage. The number of casualties rose to at least 108 by late Saturday night, local media reported citing health services.
Most of those affected came away with comparatively mild injuries. A strong aftershock with a magnitude of 4.8 shortly after midnight caused new fears. So far, no information is available on the effects of this tremor.
The strongest earthquake on Saturday afternoon at 4 pm, according to the Albanian Ministry of Defense, had a magnitude of 5.8. The US earthquake control gave the strength at 5.6. Two more earthquakes with strengths of 5.1 and 4.7 followed. According to the ministry, the center of the first quake was located not far from the Cape Rodon north of the port city of Durres.
Panic on the streets of the capital
The Ministry spoke of the worst earthquake in Albania for decades. According to a statement by the government after a crisis session at night, at least 293 houses were damaged and 20 other residential buildings had cracks registered.
According to media reports, the tremors triggered panic, especially in Durrës and in the state capital Tirana. People were frightened in large numbers on the street. The quakes were also felt in the neighboring countries of Montenegro and northern Macedonia, according to media reports from the two countries.
Photos show severe damage to the building - for example, at the Geology Faculty in Tirana. Fallen stones and other debris destroyed cars there. Another building in Tirana had a vertical crack across several floors. According to the Foreign Office, Tirana has more than 600,000 inhabitants, and Albania almost three million.
Only in June had the earth shaken
Minister of Health Ogerta Manastirliu visited the emergency room of the accident hospital in Tirana in the late afternoon. She has not seen cases of serious injuries, the state news agency ATA reported. According to the news site "Shqiptarja.com", many were injured, with head and limb injuries.
Prime Minister Edi Rama canceled his participation in the UN General Assembly in New York on the earthquake series. He interrupted his journey in Frankfurt am Main to return to Albania, as ATA reported, citing government agencies. In the crisis meeting of the government, he praised, according to ATA, the work of the emergency and rescue services, which would have responded immediately.
The Mediterranean is one of the most active earthquake regions in Europe. But earthquakes like those on Saturday are still rare in Albania, which is located on the Adriatic coast, said an expert from the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR).
Most recently there were similar violent earthquakes on June 1 at Korçë in the southeast of the country. There was a quake of magnitude 5.2 with aftershocks. Even then, there had been considerable damage.