Tirana, Albania — A strong earthquake rocked Albania early Tuesday, crumbling several buildings and killing at least 16 people. Hundreds more were injured by the temblor, which the U.S. Geological Survey said had a magnitude of 6.4. Centered 19 miles northwest of the capital Tirana, the Reuters news agency said it was the strongest quake to hit Albania in decades.
"The situation is very dramatic," President Ilir Meta told journalists in the hard-hit northern town of Thumane, 22 miles north of Tirana. "All efforts are being done to take the people out of the ruins."
Albania's Defense Ministry said the discovery of bodies in Thumane had brought the death toll to 16, but the search continued to locate victims. The ministry said at least 28 survivors had been rescued.
The Health Ministry said around 600 people were injured, with at least nine in life-threatening conditions. About 400 soldiers were putting up tents in two towns to shelter people with damaged houses.
Live TV footage showed people cheering when a child was found alive in a collapsed building in the town of Durres where a body had been found earlier.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said neighboring countries, the European Union and the United States all offered immediate support following the powerful quake. He said he'd had phone calls from his Italian, Greek and Turkish counterparts and also the EU and U.S. embassies in Tirana.
The quake collapsed at least three apartment buildings while people slept, and rescue crews were working to free people believed trapped in the rubble. There was no indication as to how many people might still be buried.
Authorities reported scores of aftershocks and called on people in the most affected areas to stay out of their homes. Many homes that did not collapse still bore visible cracks.
Local media reported that a restaurant was destroyed in western Durres.
At least three apartment buildings and a power distribution station were damaged in Thumane.
An earthquake in September in roughly the same area damaged hundreds of homes.