Plea to help Albanian earthquake survivors as Durres search resumes

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By Richard Good
Plea to help Albanian earthquake survivors as Durres search resumes
Copyright  فلوريان غوجا/رويترز

Low temperatures and frequent rain showers are making supplies of clothes, blankets and food much needed in Albania's second city Durres, following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.

A local school is being used as a distribution centre.

The number of people known to have been killed stood at 49 on Saturday morning. There have been more than 600 aftershocks since the initial quake, which was of magnitude 6.4.

"Oh, it's so hard,” said one resident. “My family of four spent last night in the small garden over there. We gathered around a bonfire to pull through the coldness. A soldier over there, such a good person, gave me this blanket."

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Many houses have become unsafe to live in following the earthquake and the aftershocks. Volunteers say the most urgent need is for clothing and blankets.

It comes as rescuers searching for survivors of a collapsed hotel in Durres resumed their work on Saturday morning. 

At least one woman is believed to be trapped in the rubble, but there is no indication whether she is dead or alive. 

The sea-front hotel, the Mira Mare, was the only site where rescue work was still ongoing. 

Search teams from Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia were replaced by Swiss, French and Italian teams in the afternoon but the search was called off on Friday night before it was due to resume again on Saturday morning.

Nearby, another hotel, the Ljubljana, was leaning to one side, its ornamental Roman columns cracked. Shattered glass and a toppled potted plant lay strewn across what had been its reception area.

A woman pushed a pushchair piled high with bags of what appeared to be possessions she had managed to rescue from the wreckage of her home.

"When I saw all that destruction, that hell, all those lost lives, my friend, it is unbelievable," said another Durres resident, Tahir Halili.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said 25 people had died in Durres, 23 in the northern town of Thumane and one in the town of Lac. 

The quake damaged more than 700 houses in Durres, destroyed 12 more and left nearly 200 apartment buildings with cracks and fissures, he said.

Rama extended a 30-day state of emergency already in force in Durres and Thumane to Lac. Ten dead from two families were laid to rest on Friday. Later Rama said the state of emergency would also include the northern town of Lezhe.

More than 5,000 people have been left homeless by the quake, Rama said. They are being housed in hotels, schools, gyms and other temporary accommodation such as tents.