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Albanians sleeping in cars at roadside to stay safe after deadly quake

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Rescue workers marked Albania's Flag Day by flying a flag above the rubble of a quake-collapsed building in Durres.
Rescue workers marked Albania's Flag Day by flying a flag above the rubble of a quake-collapsed building in Durres. -
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REUTERS
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Albanians have been sleeping in their cars at the roadside amid ongoing fears over Tuesday's deadly earthquake.

Parked cars lined roads near Tirana as people heeded warnings not to return indoors until buildings can be checked by engineers.

The country has been rocked by at least five tremors in two days, including a 6.4-magnitude one that has left more than 40 people dead.

Thursday was supposed to be a national day of celebration marking independence. But instead, thousands of Albanians sought refuge in the streets amid fear of more earthquakes.

Thousands have been left homeless by Tuesday’s initial quake, the worst in decades. While authorities have promised to rebuild and provide shelter, many survivors are still sleeping in tents and gyms, or in their vehicles.

Yet another aftershock rattled the coastal city of Durres on Thursday, sending mourners rushing from a theatre where they had gathered for the funeral of four family members.

Albanians traditionally mark 'Flag Day' — the anniversary of their November 28, 1912 declaration of independence — with a profusion of national flags.

In Durres on Thursday, rescue workers planted a single flag atop the rubble of a collapsed hotel as the overall death toll climbed to 41.

More bodies were pulled from the debris, aided by sniffer dogs, but hopes of finding survivors faded.

REUTERS
More bodies are pulled from the earthquake debrisREUTERS

The government has declared a state of emergency for 30 days in Durres and nearby Thumane, and promised it would build new houses by the end of next year for those who lost them.

Search operations in Thumane ended after six more bodies were recovered from a collapsed apartment building.

Many in the town left without homes spent a second night in tents, unwilling to head to hotels along the coast made available for them while the search operation continued.

In total, an estimated 2,100 survivors are still sleeping in tents, even as officials try and match families to spare accommodation.

Spared by killer quakes since 1979, Albania lacks rescue know-how. Rescue crews with specialized equipment, sniffer dogs and emergency supplies have flooded into Albania from neighboring countries and other European nations to help in the search efforts and provide for those left homeless.

Romania said Thursday it was sending an extra 52 firefighters and 12 tons of equipment on two military aircraft, while Switzerland was also sending 15 experts.

The Albanian Red Cross launched a GoFundMe page that had raised $4,000 as of Thursday night. The organisation said it was helping those still living in tents at a stadium in Durres.

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