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Balkans rocked by series of earthquakes, with at least 13 dead in Albania

U.S. Geological Survey (Air Force/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Rescue workers scrambled through the rubble of collapsed buildings in a frantic search for survivors after a series of earthquakes rattled the western Balkans, leaving at least 13 people dead and hundreds injured.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.4-magnitude quake was centered 30 kilometers northwest of the capital, Tirana. It was at a depth of 20 kilometers.

“It is a dramatic moment where we should preserve calm, stay alongside each other to cope with this shock,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

The early morning quake, which was felt along the Albanian coast of the Adriatic and Ionic seas, was followed by scores of aftershocks, including three with preliminary magnitudes of between 5.1 and 5.4.

Hours later, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) reported a magnitude-5.4 temblor centered in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There were no immediate reports of injuries or structural damage, the EMSC said.

Albanian President Ilir Meta told journalists from Thumane, 36 kilometers north of Tirana, that “the situation is very dramatic. All efforts are being done to take the people out of the ruins.”

At least three apartment buildings and the power distribution station were damaged in Thumane.

Rama said neighboring countries, the European Union, and the United States had offered to send assistance.

Rama said that KosovAR President Hashim Thaci called him and told that an emergency crew haD left to help Albania’s efforts to rescue people from the rubble.

Rama said he had spoken to his Italian, Greek, and Turkish counterparts and with the EU and U.S. embassies in Tirana.

Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top diplomat and an aid official, said in a statement that “we express our deep condolences to the people and the authorities of the country.”

Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said some 600 injured people were treated in the coastal city of Durres, Tirana, and Thumane.

The bodies of three people were removed from the ruins of a collapsed building in Durres, 33 kilometers west of 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.

Witnesses described residents fleeing apartment buildings in Tirana, some carrying babies. Power was down in several neighborhoods of the capital.

Local media reported that a restaurant was destroyed in western Durres, where army soldiers were helping people get out of a collapsed building.

At least three apartment buildings and the power distribution station were damaged in the northern commune of Thumane.

An earthquake in September damaged hundreds of homes in Albania.

Located along the Adriatic and Ionian seas, Albania experiences regular seismic activity, though the November 26 tremor was the strongest to strike in decades.

The Balkan state is the poorest country in Europe, with an average income of less than a third of the European Union average, according to Eurostat data.

The quake was felt across the Balkans, from Sarajevo to Bosnia and even in the Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometers away, according to reports.