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At least 23 dead, hundreds hurt after major earthquake in Albania

By
Darryl Coote & Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes
A woman cries as her relatives are trapped in a building after an earthquake hit Thumane, Albania, Tuesday. Photo by Malton Dibra/EPA-EFE
A woman cries as her relatives are trapped in a building after an earthquake hit Thumane, Albania, Tuesday. Photo by Malton Dibra/EPA-EFE

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Nearly two dozen dozen people were killed Tuesday and hundreds were injured when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the Albanian city of Durres, with shocks reverberating miles away in the capital of Tirana.

The United States Geological Survey said the temblor occurred at a depth of 12 miles with its epicenter close to the port city of Durres.

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At least 23 died and more than 650 were reported injured, according to the Albanian Ministry of Health, which has updated the death toll several times since the quake struck.

Rescuers pulled at least 45 people alive from underneath debris. It's unclear how many people may be missing.

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Albanian President Ilir Meta said the government asked foreign nations for help with the disaster.

"Our country was hit by a wave of earthquakes like never before in the darkness of the early hours of today," Meta said in a statement. "It is important to work with dedication and professionalism to save every human life under the rubble of buildings and to help the injured."

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said foreign nations have heeded their distress call, with Kosovo dispatching military special forces to search for survivors, Italy and Greece sending aircraft, France and Turkey expressing their readiness to offer assistance, and Germany setting up an "emergency aid mechanism."

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"The powerful earthquake hit has caused serious consequences and unfortunately we have lost lives," Rama said via Twitter. "All state structures are in place from the very first moment."

He said the government was working "intensively to save every possible life."

The earthquake destroyed multiple buildings, including the seven-story Vila Palma hotel in Durres.

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A resident of Elbasan, about 35 miles southeast of Durres, told The New York Times a four-story residence fell and trapped people inside.

"I could hear six people screaming to get them out," Olsi Shehi said.

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