Search ends for survivors of Albanian earthquake as death toll reaches 51

A care is pictured after the earthquake that shook the country, in Durres, Albania, November 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 30 November 2019

Search ends for survivors of Albanian earthquake as death toll reaches 51

  • 51st victim was a 20-year-old woman who died on Saturday
  • There have been hundreds of aftershocks, some with a magnitude of more than 5.0

DURRES, Albania: Albania ended its search on Saturday for survivors of a powerful earthquake that killed 51 people, and buried more victims of the disaster including toddler twins and their mother.
The 6.4-magnitude quake, the country’s worst ever, struck on Tuesday, centered 30 km west of the capital Tirana. It was felt across the Balkans and in the southern Italian region of Puglia, on the other side of the Adriatic Sea from Albania.
There have been hundreds of aftershocks, some with a magnitude of more than 5.0, rocking already damaged buildings and terrifying residents.
On Saturday, rescuers called a halt to efforts to find survivors in the rubble. At the Mira Mare hotel, on the Adriatic seafront in the city of Durres, a mechanized digger had ground to a halt near the ruins of concrete slabs, water boilers, mattresses and curtains from the six-story building.
“No other bodies were found at the Mira Mare,” a government spokesman said.
The 51st victim was a 20-year-old woman who died on Saturday. She had been struck on the head by falling bricks in a western district of Tirana, making her the only victim in the capital.
Most of the others were in Durres, Albania’s second-biggest city and main port, and the nearby town of Thumane.
Located along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas between Greece and Montenegro, Albania is prone to seismic activity. This earthquake was Albania’s deadliest; the previous highest toll was in 1979 when a quake killed 40 people.
Poorly-equipped Albanian troops rescued survivors from the rubble of buildings sometimes digging them out with their bare hands, until 250 troops from European countries and the United States came to their aid.
Durres authorities fanned out across the city to distribute food but some residents complained they had not received supplies.
In one case, a car trying to distribute food was surrounded by a large crowd and drove away. “The poor get nothing,” a white-haired lady of 65 said in despair.
She and others, who did not want to share their names, said they were not allowed back into their houses for safety reasons, and had to rely on donated food supplies.
Conscious of the difficulties, the government said it had set up national operational centers, and a phone line for people in need of food and clothing to call for help.
In a wave of solidarity, Albanians have been donating food and clothing in city centers. The GoFundMe crowdfunding platform said that, as of Friday, $3.2 million had been raised worldwide to help survivors of the disaster.


Two French confirmed dead in Beirut blast, France steps up probe

Updated 7 min 10 sec ago

Two French confirmed dead in Beirut blast, France steps up probe

  • The death of one French victim — prominent Lebanon-based architect Jean-Marc Bonfils — had already been confirmed but the second victim has yet to be publicly identified
  • Investigators and police from France have already been at the scene in Beirut for several days to reconstruct the chain of events that led to the explosion

PARIS: France has stepped up its probe into the massive Beirut port blast last week by handing it to investigating magistrates, prosecution sources said Friday, as it was confirmed two French citizens were among the 171 people killed.
The investigation has now been entrusted to two magistrates who can ultimately decide whether to press charges over the August 4 blast, a source in the office of the Paris prosecutor told AFP.
Another source, who asked not to be named, said two French citizens were now confirmed to have been killed in the explosion.
The death of one French victim — prominent Lebanon-based architect Jean-Marc Bonfils — had already been confirmed but the second victim has yet to be publicly identified.
French prosecutors on August 5 opened a probe into “involuntary injury” using their jurisdiction to investigate acts committed abroad when French people are among the victims.
Investigators and police from France have already been at the scene in Beirut for several days to reconstruct the chain of events that led to the explosion.
The FBI will also join Lebanese investigators at the invitation of the Lebanese government, the US State Department said Thursday.
The explosion has been blamed on a vast stock of ammonium nitrate left for years in a warehouse at the port despite repeated warnings.
Lebanon’s government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned this week following days of demonstrations demanding accountability over the disaster.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation and judicial officials said Wednesday the prosecution would question ministers and former ministers.
President Michel Aoun has rejected calls from world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, and many Lebanese for an independent international investigation as a “waste of time.”