TIRANA (Reuters) - The most powerful earthquake to hit Albania in decades rocked the capital of Tirana and nearby port town of Durres early on Tuesday, causing at least two buildings to collapse and trapping residents in the rubble, officials said.
The 6.4 magnitude quake struck shortly before 4am local time (0300 GMT), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, the second powerful tremor to hit the region in two months.
It was centred 30 km (19 miles) west of Tirana, at a shallow depth of 10 km (6 miles), the USGS said.
One person died in the town of Kurbin, in central northern Albania, after panicking and jumping out of a building, a Defence Ministry spokeswoman said.
Unverified video footage posted on social media showed what appeared to be a collapsed building in Durres, 40 km west of Tirana, on the Adriatic coast. Other footage showed buildings with large cracks and fallen masonry, including one apartment with most of a bedroom wall missing, and a car burst into flames apparently caused by a short-circuit from a triggered car alarm.
“Firefighters and army staff are helping residents (caught) under the rubble”, in Durres and the nearby village of Thumane, the Defence Ministry spokeswoman told reporters.
An unidentified man, with a wound dressing on his right cheek, told News24 TV his daughter and niece were among those trapped in a collapsed apartment building.
“I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and are waiting for the rescue. Could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them,” the man said.
Two government spokesmen told Reuters the biggest damage to buildings was in Durres and a few people had been taken to hospital in Tirana.
A Reuters witness described residents fleeing apartment buildings in Tirana, some carrying babies. Power was down in several neighbourhoods.
Several smaller tremors were recorded in the hour before the main quake, which also was felt in the southern Italian region of Puglia.
“We were awake because of the previous quakes, but the last one shook us around. Everything at home kept falling down,” Refik, a Tirana resident, told Reuters of what happened in his sixth-floor apartment.
Located along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, between Greece and Macedonia, Albania experiences regular seismic activity.
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 shook the country on Sept. 21, damaging around 500 houses and destroying some. The Defence Ministry had said it was the most powerful quake in Albania in the last 30 years.
The Balkan nation is the poorest country in Europe, with an average income of less than a third of the European Union average, according to Eurostat data.