Albania's search for quake victims ends as death toll rises to 51

Albania's PM announces end of operation launched in the wake of deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday.

    The government has set up financial compensations for families of the dead [Anadolu]
    The government has set up financial compensations for families of the dead [Anadolu]

    The search-and-rescue operation for earthquake survivors in Albania has ended, with the death toll standing at 51 and no more bodies believed to be in the ruins, Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

    Rama said on Saturday that preliminary figures showed more than 1,465 buildings in the capital, Tirana, and about 900 in nearby Durres were seriously damaged in Tuesday's 6.4-magnitude predawn earthquake. About 2,000 people were injured.

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    There have been more than 500 aftershocks, some with a magnitude of more than 5, rocking already damaged buildings and terrifying residents.

    A 20-year-old woman, in a coma after she was injured by a falling brick while leaving her apartment in Tirana, died, the health ministry said on Saturday.

    In Durres, hundreds of residents as well as Rama and President Ilir Meta attended the funeral of nine members of a single extended family who were killed when a four-storey villa collapsed. One man survived and has been sent to Italy for medical treatment. 

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    Preliminary figures estimate at least 4,000 people are homeless. About 2,500 people from damaged homes have been sheltered in hotels. Others have been taken to neighbouring Kosovo or have moved to eastern areas of Albania.

    The prime minister has pledged all homeless will be in "stronger homes" in 2020.

    One of the heavily damaged buildings has been demolished by the authorities and a dozen others are expected to be flattened.

    A new law has been drafted that will ensure investors, architects and supervisors are imprisoned for seven to 15 years for any violation of construction norms. That and corruption in Albania's burgeoning building industry have been blamed for much of the devastation caused by the earthquake.

    The government has set up financial compensations for families of the dead, including 1 million lek ($9,000) per family, special pensions for elders and scholarships for children.

    Tuesday's earthquake was the second powerful quake to hit the region in two months.

    A magnitude-5.6 earthquake shook Albania on September 21, damaging about 500 houses, some of which were completely destroyed. The defence ministry had said at the time it was the most powerful quake to hit the country in the past 30 years.

    SOURCE: News agencies