Strong quake hits Albania; at least 2 dead, 150 injured

People were seen leaving homes to go to open areas. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2019

Strong quake hits Albania; at least 2 dead, 150 injured

  • US Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 6.4 in magnitude
  • People reported seeing cracks in their apartment walls

TIRANA, Albania: A strong earthquake shook Albania early Tuesday, killing at least six people, injuring 300 and collapsing buildings.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.4 quake, which struck just before 4 a.m. local time, had an epicenter 30 kilometers northwest of the capital, Tirana, at a depth of 20 kilometers. Scores of aftershocks included three with preliminary magnitudes of between 5.1 and 5.4.
The quake collapsed at least three apartment buildings while people slept, and rescue crews were working to free people believed trapped in the rubble. There was no indication as to how many people might still be buried in the rubble.
Albanian President Ilir Meta said the situation in the town of Thumane, closest to the epicenter, was “very dramatic.”
“All efforts are being made to take the people out of the ruins,” he said, and called on the Cabinet to request international assistance.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said neighboring Kosovo was sending an emergency team to help with rescue efforts.
The bodies of three people were removed from a collapsed building in the coastal city of Durres, 33 kilometers west of the capital Tirana, the Defense Ministry said. Another two people were found dead and removed from the rubble of a building in Thumane, while one person died after jumping from his home to escape shaking from the quake in Kurbin, 50 kilometers north of the capital.
Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said some 300 injured people were treated in Durres, Tirana and Thumane.
All government agencies are on alert and “intensively working to save lives at the fatal spots in Durres and Thumane,” Rama said.
“It is a dramatic moment where we should preserve calm, stay alongside each other to cope with this shock,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
The quake was felt along the Albanian coast.
Authorities reported scores of aftershocks and called on people in the most affected areas to stay out of their homes and avoid driving in the affected areas to allow emergency vehicles free access. Many reported seeing cracks in their apartment walls.
At least three apartment buildings and the power distribution station were damaged in Thumane.
An earthquake in September in roughly the same area damaged hundreds of homes.


UAE position on Palestine in line with Arab consensus, says diplomat

Ali Abdullah Al-Ahmed. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 13 min 54 sec ago

UAE position on Palestine in line with Arab consensus, says diplomat

  • Emirati envoy: Israel deal ‘puts two-state solution back on the table’

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron hailed in a tweet the “courageous decision” of the United Arab Emirates to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and expressed his wishes that it will contribute to a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Ali Abdullah Al-Ahmed, the Emirati ambassador to France, told Arab News-French edition that the decision of the Israeli government to annex Palestinian territory had already been taken and had preoccupied the international community since the signing of the Oslo agreement, and until a few years ago this problem was the keystone of the two-state solution.

Al-Ahmed said: “If the Israeli government executes its plans to annex the Palestinian territories then this means that the two-state solution should be forgotten and that we will be back to the situation that prevailed 30 years ago.”

However, he added that “we are convinced that this trilateral agreement between the UAE, Israel and the US as a principal actor, especially with the strengthening of the US presence in our region, will contribute in enhancing peace, security and stability in the region.”

Regarding Israeli declarations that annexation will only be suspended and not canceled, Al-Ahmed said: “There are no relations that begin in an ideal way, yet a step was made today when the Israeli government agreed to freeze annexation. It is definitely not a final solution, we will see what will comes next.”

However, the Emirati diplomat said: “The kick off of relations between the UAE and Israel opens the gates, and what will follow will not be confined to the political level but will equally cover the economic, technological and academic levels. It is highly possible that the tempo of the development of these relations will be faster. We will see.”

For Al-Ahmed, the return of the two-state solution to the negotiating table is undoubtedly an accomplishment. With regards to the rejection by the Palestinian authority of this agreement, the ambassador said: “It would have been more feasible for the Palestinian authority to thank the Emirati diplomacy, after all the decision of the UAE is a sovereign one that was already preceded by Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians themselves.

We are convinced that this trilateral agreement between the UAE, Israel and the US as a principal actor … will contribute in enhancing peace, security and stability in the region.

Ali Abdullah Al-Ahmed, Emirati ambassador to France

“We do not negotiate in the name of the Palestinians and it is not up to us to do so. However, our position regarding the Palestinian cause is in line with the Arab consensus regarding Jerusalem and other parameters of Arab unanimity, we adhere to them and we do not relinquish them,” the Emirati ambassador added.

On whether the Emirati embassy in Israel would be located in Jerusalem. Al-Ahmed said: “We are in the beginning of establishing diplomatic relations, however, we will see how all this will progress in the coming days. We are still in the phase of telephone contacts through which the kick off of diplomatic relations that will determine all the details depends. The UAE has put conditions on this agreement and the US has accepted to put the two-state solution back to the table of negotiations.”

On whether the agreement between the UAE and Israel means that the Arab peace plan or peace initiative of late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz is no longer valid, Al-Ahmed said: “Surely not, as the King Abdullah initiative is based on the two-state solution, which is the essence of the initiative.”

On whether the Emirati-Israeli agreement aims at enhancing US President Donald Trump’s re-election chances, Al-Ahmed said that US voters are unconcerned with foreign politics, and this is well known, and that had the US not been the guarantor of this agreement, it would have never been achieved.

If the agreement was aimed at confronting Iran and Turkey in the region, Al-Ahmed said that diplomatic relations between the two countries have many factors, including social, political, and cultural ones, and that the UAE is convinced that Israel can benefit a lot from Arab countries, for the UAE can benefit from relations with Israel.

“We have already cooperated on the medical scientific level regarding the coronavirus pandemic, especially between Emirati and Israeli companies in matters of pharmaceutical research.”

Regarding the Arab country that will come next, the Emirati ambassador believes that if Israel wants to live in peace in the Arab region, and if the Arab states want a prosperous economy, then there should be agreements with other Arab states which serves the interests of both parties.