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A devastating earthquake struck Albania

A devastating earthquake struck Albania on Tuesday November 26.

Rescuers continue to look for survivors as subsequent aftershocks add to the damage. The official figures are twenty-six people have been killed and 650 injured in Albania’s worst earthquake in decades, and hundreds of buildings destroyed. Sadly, the number of fatalities is likely to rise as the response and rescue work continues.

The magnitude 6.4 tremor struck 34km (21 miles) north-west of Tirana, and most of the deaths occurred in Durres, where Mission Without Borders (MWB) is based, and in the town of Thumane.

Mission Without Border’s local staff were unable to access the Mission office and some of them spent the night in the local football stadium in Durres along with thousands of others made homeless by the disaster. One staff member reported that people were panicking as the tremors continued, with many afraid or unable to return home. They have now been able to contact all the families that we work with and confirm that they are all physically safe.

Our programme staff are out in the community supporting affected families and distributing much needed help including food and hygiene items. The emotional and spiritual support they provide is also vital at such a time of crisis.

Andrew Wilks, NZ Director visited the area in 2016, “I have personally seen the housing that many poor families live in. An earthquake of this magnitude hits very hard. The building techniques seem very basic - definitely not up to our earthquake standards and potentially lethal. Unlike New Zealand, they don’t have insurance for their homes or possessions, so many will have lost everything. Many families and elderly will be looking to us for whatever help we can offer them.”

We are working alongside the Evangelical Alliance and other aid agencies such as the Red Cross who have been mobilised to respond to this disaster.

Currently we are distributing the food, clothing and hygiene items that we have available, and in addition a lorry of goods is currently being prepared to be sent from our International warehouse in Romania with additional relief supplies. More will be sent as soon as we can assess what is most needed.

What makes MWB unique is our rootedness in communities in Albania and the close relationships our local staff have with the families and people we work with. We will continue to support those affected by the earthquake as long as the need remains.

Once the immediate rescue operation is complete we will be able to assess what is needed to support these families and communities in the medium to long term.

We are launching an emergency appeal to raise much needed funds to provide both immediate support to families and communities as winter sets in – and beyond that, to help cover the costs of people repairing their homes.

Monika Qerimi, Mission Without Borders Albania Manager, said, “Durres will never be the same city again, not only because of the many ruined buildings, or the hundreds of flats evaluated and unsuitable for habitation, but because of so many lives lost, while so many other people remain unaccounted for. The overall situation is one of sadness and shock.

“While the earthquake and the aftershocks continue to shake Albania, our faith in the Lord does not waver.

“We know how great the power of prayer is, so we ask the MWB family worldwide to pray for Albania and especially Durres and the other affected areas so that our Mighty God's protecting hand is upon us in the following hours and days.”

Monika added, “I have spoken with the mayor of Durres, whose primary focus right now is ensuring that anyone still trapped under rubble or in buildings is rescued.”

The European Commission said it had deployed rescue teams from Italy, Greece and Romania to help with the search efforts, while teams were sent also from Kosovo and Montenegro.

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