SUPPORT STATEMENTS, DONATIONS TO BRING RELIEF TO ALBANIA /
Vatra’s campaign to raise funds and prayers to lift spirits for earthquake victims/
Special Event: Saturday, November 30 at 12 pm at Vatra’s Headquarters/
Albania is mourning as the death tolls rises, and many are still trapped in the rubble of toppled buildings from a powerful earthquake that hit in the early hours of Tuesday, November 26. Officials warn that the death toll could increase with several unaccounted people and over 650 hundred who have been hospitalized with injuries.
The government of Albania has declared a state of emergency for the areas most affected in the coastal town of Durres and surroundings. The rescue teams are providing search operations for survivors trapped under the debris and medical workers and emergency personnel are set up in tents. Due to several aftershocks that have rendered many buildings structurally unsafe, many residents spent the night outside and in makeshift camps. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was a magnitude 6.4 with an epicenter 30 kilometers northwest of the capital, Tirana.
The news agencies reported that three hours after the initial quake, a magnitude-5 aftershock struck in the Adriatic Sea. Footage taken in the earthquake area show terrified children and adults.
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama declared Wednesday a day of national mourning. President Ilir Meta and opposition leader Lulzim Basha visited areas affected by the quake.
Relief aid and support teams have arrived in the country. Kosovo’s outgoing government allocated $550,000 for relief efforts. Kosovo’s Security Force teams and private companies are already on the ground. Rescue workers and crews were dispatched from neighboring Italy and Greece.
On Wednesday the rescue efforts were suspended as fresh tremors were reported in several cities. The Seismic Center has announced that the magnitude of the recent shock was 5.3 on the Richter scale, with the epicenter in the Adriatic Sea. Due to the ongoing seismic activity, the search and rescue operations in Tirana and Durrës were put on hold for safety reasons. The situation has caused panic among the population.
Most of the deaths have occurred in the coastal city of Durres and the town of Thumane, close to the epicenter. Some 500 shocks have been felt since the initial quake hit at 03:54 local time (02:54 GMT) on Tuesday. Search crews from a number of European countries are looking for survivors in the rubble.
The European Commission posted on its official Twitter account that its stands by Albania “at this difficult time in the aftermath of the earthquakes.”
“We have mobilized immediate support to help local authorities, and rescue teams from Italy, Greece and Romania are already on their way,” the Twitter statement read.
The U.S. Embassy has put out the following statement: “The United States stands with our friends in Albania, just as Americans and Albanians have always stood by each other during difficult times. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and stand ready to offer our support.”
The support of the US officials and representatives on Twitter has been overwhelming from all corners of the country. The Junior US Senator from Michigan Gary Peters posted: “Michigan is home to many Albanian-Americans. Thinking of all these families who have friends and loved one in Albania impacted by this tragic earthquake. We wish them a speedy and smooth recovery.” The Democratic New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Jammal Bailey were among the ones encouraging the donation efforts by the community association. The Chairman of the Staten Island Republican Party, Brendan T. Lantry put out a statement. The New York City Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj posted this message on his Twitter account: “In times of tragedy, New Yorkers bring relief and compassion in ways that others simply do not. I will be flying to Albania with a group of Structural Engineers to assess the residential buildings and schools’ structural damage and to certify if they are safe for occupancy.”
The Albanian-American community organizations have rallied to help by setting up fundraisers and donation campaigns. In solidarity, the Pan-Albanian Federation of America VATRA has launched a donation campaign to bring relief to the families affected by the earthquake. The branches are encouraged to support with contributions according to their means.
Vatra’s call for relief efforts states that by giving together we raise more than funds, we lift spirits. (Rafaela Prifti)