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Nine people dead and 600 others injured as Albania hit with strongest earthquake in decades

The worst damage appeared to be around the coastal town of Durres.

Rescuers searching for victims following the earthquake in Thumane, Albania
Rescuers searching for victims following the earthquake in Thumane, Albania
Image: AP/PA Images

NINE PEOPLE HAVE died and some 600 were injured in Albania after the strongest earthquake in decades rocked the Balkan country this morning.

The epicentre of the 6.4 magnitude quake was about 34 kilometres northwest of the capital Tirana, at a depth of 10km, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

The quake struck at 3.54am local time (2.54am Irish time).

The worst damage appeared to be around the coastal town of Durres.

The quake was the strongest to hit this region since 1926, Albanian seismologist Rrapo Ormeni told local television.

Four bodies, including that of a young girl, were pulled from ruins in the port city, where a hotel collapsed and other buildings were badly damaged, the defence ministry said.

Three more bodies were found in rubble in the nearby town of Thumane.

In the nearby town of Kurbin, a man in his 50s died after jumping from his building in panic, while another perished in a car accident after the earthquake tore open parts of the road, it said.

The health ministry meanwhile said that more than 600 people received first aid in hospitals.

In Thumane, around a dozen rescuers used an excavator to dig through a mountain of debris in search of possible victims.

At least 150 people with injuries have sought first aid in Tirana and Durres.

In Thumane, soldiers, rescuers and families were sifting through the rubble of a collapsed five-storey building as cries of people trapped under debris were heard.

The tremors were felt across the Balkan region, from Sarajevo to Bosnia and even in the Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometres away, according to reports in local media and on social networks.

It was followed by several aftershocks, including one of 5.3 magnitude, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said.

It was described by authorities as the strongest earthquake in the last 20-30 years.

The Balkans is an area prone to seismic activity and earthquakes are frequent.

- © AFP 2019

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