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Disaster Team Assesses Deadly Albanian Explosions

UN disaster team conducts assessment in wake of deadly Albanian explosions

23 March 2008 - A United Nations disaster and assessment coordination team (UNDAC) is carrying out a rapid evaluation this weekend of the situation in Albania, where a series of explosions at a military ammunition depot a week ago have killed at least 21 people, injured 250 others and destroyed or damaged more than 4,000 homes.

The seven-member team, which arrived in Tirana, the capital, earlier this week, is conducting the assessment of the affected area in collaboration with the Albanian Government, according to an update released on Friday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Albanian authorities asked for the UNDAC team to help them identify priority needs and coordinate their response to the deadly explosions, which occurred on 15 March during an ongoing programme to destroy old military ordnance at a depot in the village of Gerdec.

Government figures indicate that 4,000 people have had to be evacuated from a wide area around Gerdec, which is located about 15 kilometres west of Tirana. As of last Thursday, 408 homes were reported to have been destroyed and over 3,700 others were heavily or partially damaged.

The situation is complicated by the thousands of artillery shells, mortar shells, grenades and small arms ammunition that now litter the area for up to five kilometres around the depot. As much as 90,000 tons of ageing ammunition in need of destruction also exists at 26 sites throughout Albania.

ENDS

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