Albania calls for international help to recover from quake

Albania’s prime minister has called on the international community for financial and human resources aid to recover from the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that killed 51 persons and left thousands of damaged homes

TIRANA, Albania -- Albania’s prime minister said Sunday he has called on the international community financial aid and expert assistance to help the country recover from a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that killed 51 persons and left thousands homeless.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said the government was reshaping the budget to help deal with the crisis but that the country also needs international support.

“Simply, this is humanly impossible to do this (reconstruction) alone,” Rama said at a regular morning Cabinet meeting.

Rama met with a group of ambassadors Saturday evening, including representatives from the European Union, United States, Turkey and Japan, and delivered the same message to them, he told his ministers.

Tuesday’s quake that hit Albania’s Adriatic coast also injured more than 3,000 people and left thousands homeless. The worst hit areas were the port town of Durres, a popular beach vacation spot for Albanians 33 kilometers (20 miles) west of the capital Tirana, and the nearby northern town of Thumane.

Already, civil engineers from EU countries and the U.S., along with local experts, have started to assess the quake damage. The clean-up process is already underway and some seriously damaged homes and hotels are being demolished.

The three quake-hit districts of Tirana, Durres and Lezha, remain in a state of emergency and authorities there still have not decided when schools will reopen.

Durres Mayor Valbona Sako resigned Sunday morning after making remarks on Saturday that she was “pleased” only 50 people had died in the earthquake, saying that poor construction, building code violations and corruption were much to blame.

The choice of words prompted a public outcry, with people accusing her of being insensitive so soon after the earthquake. Another person passed away from their injuries after the remarks to bring the death toll to 51.

About 2,500 left homeless by the quake are sheltered in tourist hotels, while hundreds remain in tents and hundreds more have been taken to neighboring Kosovo.

Meantime, repeated aftershocks have convinced many to flee the area for the east of the country.