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Albania Seeks International Support for Earthquake Recovery

Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama attends the funeral of six members of the Cara family, killed during an earthquake that shook Albania, in Thumane, Albania, Nov. 29, 2019.

Albania's prime minister is asking the international community for financial aid and expert assistance following last week's earthquake.

Edi Rama said at a Cabinet meeting Sunday, "Simply, this is humanly impossible to do this [reconstruction] alone."

He said the budget is being reshaped to deal with the earthquake's aftermath, but Albania still needs international support.

Rama said he has written to U.S. President Donald Trump to ask for help.

U.S. and European Union civil engineers are working with local experts in Albania to assess the damage.

Rescuers from France and Switzerland operate at a collapsed building after the 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Durres, western Albania, Nov. 29, 2019.
Rescuers from France and Switzerland operate at a collapsed building after the 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Durres, western Albania, Nov. 29, 2019.

The mayor of Durres, one of the hardest hit towns, resigned Sunday after public outcry about remarks she made that she was "pleased" that only 50 people had died in the earthquake. Valbona Sako said she was "hurt by the overwhelming negative reaction to a statement I made under stress that exceeds my strength."

The search and rescue operation for earthquake survivors in Albania ended Saturday, the prime minister said.

The small town of Thumane, experienced the highest death toll from Tuesday's quake with 26 people killed, six of whom belonged to one family, and all but one under age 30. They were buried Friday.

In the port city of Durres — 30 kilometers west of the capital, Tirana — the quake killed 24. One person also died in Kurbin.

In all, 51 people died, including seven children. Nine-hundred were injured. More than 5,000 people are without shelter; and 1,200 buildings were destroyed in the 6.4-magnitude quake and the aftershocks that followed.

Seismologist Rexhep Koci told VOA that while there is the likelihood for more aftershocks, but they would be weaker.

Neighboring countries provide assistance

EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca said Friday that the European Union and its member states are standing with Albania and working nonstop to provide assistance “in this very difficult moment.”

“It is a week of deep sorrow and tragedy for Albania,” Soreca said in a statement. “Our heartfelt condolences go once again to the Albanian people and especially to the families, friends and communities of those who have lost their lives."

More than 200 military troops from Albania, Kosovo, Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, France, Turkey, Switzerland, Romania, North Macedonia, the EU and the United States, participated in the search and rescue operation.

People spontaneously came from Kosovo, operating mobile kitchens, gathering donations and opening their homes. About 500 homeless Albanians are staying in a camp set up by Kosovo's government in the city of Prizren. On Friday alone, individuals and businesses from Kosovo delivered 100 tons of much needed necessities.

Remembering victims

Tirana residents turned out in the city center to honor the victims, placing candles in a makeshift memorial near the statue of Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti, known as Skanderbeg.

The state of emergency declared Wednesday for Durres and Thumane was extended to the heavily damaged town of Lac. Prime Minister Rama said he made the decision after opposition leader Lulzim Basha suggested it. Rama appeared to put on hold the acrimony often on display between the two political rivals.

“In this case, our concerns and ideas converge,” Rama said, inviting the opposition to participate in the Committee for Earthquake Relief.

For Rama, the tragedy hit close to home as his office confirmed that among the dead was his son Gregor’s fiance, Kristi Reci, whose entire family — both parents and her brother — died in Durres.

Physician Shkelqime Ladi said doctors are on hand to help with immediate needs.

“We are focusing more on the psychological aspect of the affected. Their psychological state is aggravated,” she told VOA in Lac.

Armand Mero reported from Tirana, Ilirian Agolli reported from Durres, Pellumb Sulo reported from Lac.