Nine Albanians held after buildings collapse in quake
Nine Albanians have been arrested in connection with the deaths of 51 people in a November earthquake.
The authorities have issued 17 warrants, on charges including murder and abuse of office. Eight of the suspects are still at large.
The 6.4-magnitude quake struck 34km northwest of the capital, Tirana, with most deaths occurring in Durres and Thumane, near the epicentre.
The quake toppled numerous buildings sparking allegations that construction firms, engineers and property owners failed to comply with construction standards.
Over 14,000 buildings were damaged and engineers are determining which are structurally sound.
Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, has praised Israeli military engineers for their work since the quake.
The Israelis are working to determine which buildings are still habitable.
Rama told a resident who was afraid to enter his apartment block that he could have confidence in the Israeli engineers.
“They are from Israel and they are number one,” Rama said, according to the Times of Israel. “The engineer says that after the catastrophe you should kiss your home because it has resisted and has protected you.”
The owners of two hotels that collapsed are being held on murder charges, leaving four dead in Durres, Albania’s second city.
Durres police chief Lorenc Shehu said building irregularities had been the cause of the collapses in which 23 residents of the port had died.
A third murder suspect was the manager of a collapsed police vacation hotel where a police commander died.
An engineer was arrested after working on one Durres building in which eight relatives died.
In rapid urbanisation since the fall of communism in 1990, there has been little supervision of construction by the authorities and numerous examples of illegal construction. Many of the buildings have subsequently been legalised.
Approximately 14,000 people have been left homeless by the earthquake, which was the deadliest in several decades in the Balkan state, which lies near a fault line between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates.
The European Commission said EU member states had agreed to hold a donors’ conference in Tirana next month.
A UK-Israeli activist, Jonny Daniels, said Israel felt obliged to help Albania because of the Second World War. “The least we can do as Jews is stand beside and help those who helped us during their most difficult times,” he said.
“Albania was the only country under occupation, where there were more Jews after than before the Holocaust, with over 2,000 Jews saved and efforts from the then king, King Zog I, in issuing over 700 false visas to help Jews escape Europe,” Daniels told the media.
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