Relatives of people whose homes were destroyed in Albania’s most powerful earthquake in decades are awaiting news, as rescuers find more bodies in the rubble and the death toll rises to 40.
“Ten more victims were found during the night,” Albania’s defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday morning.
Children were among those killed when a magnitude-6.4 quake hit on Tuesday.
Rescue teams from Serbia, Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland, Turkey and Croatia are helping with the search.
“Our teams have been working uninterruptedly since last night. It is a very, very difficult situation,” Italian fire service spokesman Luca Cari told Ansa news agency.
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has declared a state of emergency – enabling more funds and security – in the coastal city of Durres and the inland town of Thumane, the two areas worst affected.
Sniffer dogs are being used to help find people trapped beneath the rubble and military officers have joined the rescue efforts.
So far, 45 people have been recovered alive from different locations and are receiving hospital treatment. But one person who was pulled alive from the rubble in Thumane later died from his injuries.
But whole families have perished and hundreds of people have been injured as a result of the earthquake and a series of powerful aftershocks.
Flags are flying at half-mast on public buildings around the country as Albania observes a national day of mourning.
Gregor Rama, the prime minister’s son, posted on social media that his girlfriend and members of her family had been killed.
It is not clear how many people remain unaccounted for.
The quake struck 34km (21 miles) north-west of the Albanian capital, Tirana, during the early hours of the morning as most people were asleep.
Most of the deaths occurred in Durres and Thumane, close to the epicentre.
Prime Minister Rama has promised that rescuers will “continue to search patiently and thoroughly to the end”, and said that all those affected would be sheltered in hotels until the government had rebuilt their homes.
Of the several countries providing support, the largest deployment of personnel has come from the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF). The troops are specially trained to help with natural disasters.
Kosovo has also sent police to Albania to help maintain law and order.
As well as those buried in their homes when the quake struck, one man died in a car accident when part of a road was torn open and another man did not survive after leaping from his balcony in panic.
Albania sits on an Adriatic tectonic plate.
In April 1979, a magnitude-6.9 quake hit Albania and northern neighbour Montenegro, leaving 136 people dead and more than 1,000 injured.
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