A strong earthquake shook Albania early Tuesday, killing at least six people, injuring 300 and collapsing buildings.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.4 quake, which struck just before 4 am local time, had an epicentre 30 kilometres northwest of the capital, Tirana, at a depth of 20 kilometres.
Scores of aftershocks included three with preliminary magnitudes of between 5.1 and 5.4.
Albanian President Ilir Meta said the situation in the town of Thumane, closest to the epicentre, was “very dramatic.” "All efforts are being made to take the people out of the ruins,” he said and called on the Cabinet to request international assistance.
Defense Ministry spokeswoman Albana Qehajaj said the bodies of two people were removed from a collapsed building in the coastal city of Durres, 33 kilometres west of the capital Tirana.
One more person had been found dead in the same building earlier in the morning, while two bodies were removed from the rubble of a collapsed building in Thumane.
Another person died after jumping from his home to escape shaking from the quake in Kurbin, 50 kilometres north of the capital, the Defense Ministry said.
Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said some 300 injured people were treated in Durres, Tirana and Thumane.
All government agencies are on alert and "intensively working to save lives at the fatal spots in Durres and Thumane," Prime Minister Edi Rama said.
"It is a dramatic moment where we should preserve calm, stay alongside each other to cope with this shock,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
The quake was felt along the Albanian coast.
Authorities reported scores of aftershocks and called on people in the most affected areas to stay out of their homes and avoid driving in the affected areas to allow emergency vehicles free access. Many reported seeing cracks in their apartment walls.
At least three apartment buildings and the power distribution station were damaged in Thumane.
An earthquake in September in roughly the same area damaged hundreds of homes.