More than 20 dead as Albania hunts for earthquake survivors

Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane, 34 kilometers northwest of capital Tirana, after an earthquake hit Albania. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2019

More than 20 dead as Albania hunts for earthquake survivors

  • 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
  • Most of the victims were found in the infrastructural wreckage of the coastal city of Durres and Thumane, a town north of the capital Tirana

DURRËS, Albania: 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 epicenter of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rattled the country before dawn.
By evening the toll was 22 dead, according to the defense ministry.
Most were pulled from wreckage in the coastal city of Durres and Thumane, a town north of the capital Tirana.
In neighboring 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,” defense ministry spokeswoman Albana QeHajjaj 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-story 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.
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.
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 epicenter 34 kilometers (about 20 miles) northwest of Tirana, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center.
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 kilometers 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.


Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

Updated 7 min 59 sec ago

Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

  • Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry
  • The MFS partnership with Malaysia is expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games

KUALA LUMPUR: Olympics host Japan is going for gold in a race against time to train 1,000 chefs in halal food preparation for the summer 2020 Games.
With 5 million Muslim visitors from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia expected to descend on Tokyo for the sporting spectacular, which takes place between July and September, Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry.
“Most Muslim tourists would want to try Japanese food,” said Keith Wong, CEO of Acrosx Malaysia, which has been appointed to the halal expert training committee of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to help develop halal versions of Japanese dishes.
Demand for halal Japanese food was booming and Wong told Arab News: “Tempura is popular among Middle Easterners and in South Asia, while ramen and unagi (eels) are popular among Muslims from Southeast Asia. Sashimi and sushi are very popular among all Muslims.”
He pointed out that MFS were needed because the number of halal restaurants in Japan was currently insufficient to cater for all visitor preferences during the Olympics.
The Japanese government has partnered with Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation to have more than 1,000 chefs trained in preparing halal food and become MFS-certified.
“We are aiming to train 500 restaurants for ‘Muslim-friendly’ certification for the Olympics,” Wong said, adding that MFS were even stricter than general halal standards.
Restaurants adopting MFS would be required to have a separate halal kitchen and provide different utensils for Muslim customers.
The Japanese chefs and restaurant operators taking part in the training will learn about the history of Islam, halal food storage and cooking methods.
The global halal industry is estimated to be worth around $2 trillion, and the Japanese see Muslim travelers as being more valuable than Chinese tourists, Wong said. “Chinese travelers to Japan would usually spend money on high-end, luxury goods. While Muslim travelers, with their friends and family, would spend money on food, lodgings and tourism.”
He noted that the MFS partnership with Malaysia was expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games.
“We will be aiming for the World Expo 2025 in Osaka,” he said, adding that Japan may become a global and high-quality player in the halal industry.