November 29, 2019 / 12:20 PM / 8 days ago

Search for Albanian quake survivors at hotel to resume at daybreak

DURRES, Albania (Reuters) - Rescuers searching for survivors in the ruins of an Albanian hotel three days after an earthquake destroyed the six-storey building and many others in the Albanian port of Durres will resume their work at daybreak on Saturday.

Rescue workers with a dog work on a collapsed building in Durres, after an earthquake shook Albania, November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Florion Goga

At least one woman, a dancer, is still missing, believed to trapped there, but it was not known if she was dead or alive.

The death toll from the 6.4-magnitude quake on Tuesday, Albania’s worst, has reached 49. There have been more than 500 aftershocks, some with a magnitude of more than 5.0, rocking already damaged buildings and terrifying residents.

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

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.

Seven damaged homes built on former Durres marshland had be to razed on Friday as they were left unsafe after the earthquake, said Bledi Cuci, the government minister in charge of running the rescue effort and assessing the damage.

“Do not stay at home if it is damaged,” Defense Minister Olta Xhacka appealed to citizens during a news conference.

“We are able to offer shelter, food and clothing. The quality of life and health of citizens is our concern and life in tents is temporary.”

Writing by Benet Koleka, Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Gareth Jones

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