Four dead, several injured as powerful earthquake rocks Albania

Tirana (AFP) –


A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Albania early Tuesday killing four people, according to officials and local media, and sparking panic in the capital Tirana and other cities.

The epicentre of the quake, the strongest in the region in decades, was about 34 kilometres (about 20 miles) northwest of Tirana, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

"There is considerable damage," defence ministry Albana Qajahaj told AFP.

A man in his fifties died after jumping several storeys from a building in Kurbin in the northwest of the country, the defence ministry said.

A three-storey hotel in the port town of Durres collapsed while another building in the city centre was badly damaged.

Damage was also reported in Thumana, 30 kilometres northwest of Tirana.

Around 50 people with light injuries were being treated in hospital in the capital, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterliu said.

Other reports said 150 people were treated for light injuries.

The quake was felt across the Balkans, from Sarajevo to Bosnia and even in the Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometres away, according to reports in local media and on social networks.

It was followed by several aftershocks, including one of magnitude 5.3, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

The same region of Albania was hit by a 5.6-magnitude quake in September, described by authorities as the strongest earthquake of the last 20-30 years.

The Balkans is an area prone to seismic activity and earthquakes are frequent.