A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Albania’s capital of Tirana shortly before 4 a.m. this morning, killing at least six people. The most powerful quake to hit Albania in decades buried an untold number of residents beneath the rubble of several collapsed buildings. More than 300 injured have already been reported.
Update – The death toll in Tuesday’s 6.4 quake in western Albania has risen to 26, with hundreds of injuries, according to the Defense Ministry. As many as 658 people are injured, including eight critically, according to the Health Ministry.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that this powerful Albania earthquake was the second to hit the county in as many months. Centered at 30 kilometers west of the city, the relatively shallow quake (10 km) also killed and injured people in the coastal resort of Durres. There are some power outages in Durres as well.
Emergency workers are busy helping residents caught under the rubble. According to some reports, a great many buildings are showing cracks and other structural damage that are cause for worry. The full extent of the damage and the human toll will not be known for hours or days. Splotchy reports of heroism amidst the human casualties have made headlines worldwide already.
According to the USGS evaluation of the event, the Tirana event will probably have a significant economic impact. USGS points out that the population in this region resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake-resistant construction. The predominant vulnerable building types are unreinforced brick with timber floor and nonductile reinforced concrete frame construction. The event could top $1 billion in US dollars.
National police have issued warnings to locals and travelers to avoid driving in Durres and the surrounding areas so emergency services could reach those affected by the earthquake.
There were several small tremors preceding the larger event and a strong aftershock about 3 hours after the 6.4 Albania earthquake. The countries of the surrounding Balkans also felt the major event and some of the other shocks.
Albania is situated between Greece and Macedonia to the south and east, the Adriatic Sea on the west, and Kosovo and Montenegro to the north and northeast respectively. Earthquakes are not uncommon in the area, but this shock is the most powerful to hit the region in the last three decades.