Strong earthquake hits Albania, damage reported

Destroyed cars stand next to a damaged building after an earthquake in Tirana.
Destroyed cars stand next to a damaged building after an earthquake in Tirana.PHOTO: REUTERS
A woman with a dog walks past destroyed cars and a damaged building after an earthquake in Tirana.
A woman with a dog walks past destroyed cars and a damaged building after an earthquake in Tirana.PHOTO: REUTERS
A police officer walks past a damaged building after an earthquake in Tirana.
A police officer walks past a damaged building after an earthquake in Tirana.PHOTO: REUTERS

TIRANA (AFP) - A strong earthquake hit Albania on Saturday afternoon (Sept 21), forcing residents into the street in several cities, triggering power cuts in the capital and the collapse of some buildings in a nearby village.

"There are no deaths," Albania's defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qajaj said.

"Some 20 people went to the hospital for light injuries caused by (falling) objects or parts of walls as well as for panic attacks," she told AFP.

She added that houses and buildings in Tirana had been damaged but were still standing and that the ministry was accessing damage in other towns and villages.

Albania's defence ministry said it was "the strongest earthquake in the country in last 20 to 30 years".

The epicentre of the quake, with a magnitude of 5.6 and a depth of 10km, was located near Durres, less than 40km west of the capital Tirana, according to the US Geological Survey.

AFP reporters and witnesses saw windows broken and deep fissures in the facades of buildings in Durres, as well as in the capital.

Merchandise in a supermarket was seen strewn over the floor.

Falling masonry had damaged parked cars in Tirana.

At the University of Tirana, the building housing the geology department was also damaged, according to witnesses.

Media reported that a big building in Tirana was seriously damaged and that residents were being evacuated.

According to local media reports, at least two people were lightly injured and a dozen houses collapsed in the village of Helmes, 10km from Tirana.

In Tirana, many people fearful of aftershocks remained outside their homes for several hours.

"I fear to return because such a strong earthquake could be followed with others," a resident in her fifties, Drita Lohja, told AFP.

Two other earthquakes followed the strong one that occurred at around 4pm (10pm Singapore time) and was felt in neighbouring Montenegro and Italy, but also on the Greek island of Corfu according to some Twitter users.

Electricity and telephone lines were cut off in Tirana and a number of other towns and villages.