PHOTOS: Deadly earthquake rocks Albania

Emergency personnel work near a damaged building in Thumane after an earthquake shook Albania on Nov. 26. (Photo: Florion Goga/Reuters)

TIRANA/DURRES, Albania (Reuters) - At least 21 people were killed when the most powerful earthquake to strike Albania in decades shook the capital Tirana and the country's west and north on Tuesday, tearing down buildings and burying residents under rubble.

Residents, some carrying babies, fled apartment buildings in Tirana and the western port of Durres after the 6.4 magnitude quake struck shortly before 4 a.m. (0300 GMT).

The Balkan country was jolted by 250 aftershocks after the main tremor, Defence Minister Olta Xhacka said, two of them of magnitude 5, testing strained nerves.

She told reporters that the quake's epicentre was in Durres, Albania's main port and a tourist spot, adding: "Around 600 residents were injured and received treatment."

In the northern town of Thumane, Marjana Gjoka, 48, was sleeping in her apartment on the fourth floor of a five-storey building when the quake shattered the top of the building.

Relatives of people living at a collapsed building in Thumane, about 20 miles northwest of the capital Tirana, after an earthquake hit Albania on Nov. 26. (Photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP via Getty Images)

Hours later a magnitude 5.4 earthquake hit Bosnia, with an epicentre 75 km (45 miles) south of Sarajevo, monitors said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Five people were found dead in the rubble of apartment buildings in the northern Albanian town of Thumane and a man died in the town of Kurbin after jumping out of a building, a Defence Ministry spokeswoman said.

Seven bodies were pulled from collapsed buildings in Durres, the main port and tourism destination, the Defence Ministry said, adding 39 had been pulled out alive from under the ruins.

Defence Minister Olta Xhacka said 135 people were injured.

Firefighters, police and civilians were removing the debris from collapsed buildings in Thumane. Most of the buildings that collapsed were built of bricks, a Reuters reporter said.

Rescuers search at a damaged building after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Thumane, western Albania, on Nov. 26. (Photo: Hektor Pustina/AP)

"The roof collapsed on our head and I don't know how we escaped. God helped us," said Gjoka, whose three-year-old niece was among four people in the apartment when the quake struck.

The quake was centred 30 km (19 miles) west of Tirana, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, and was also felt across the Balkans and in the southern Italian region of Puglia, across the Adriatic Sea from Albania.

Hours later a magnitude 5.4 earthquake rattled Bosnia, with an epicentre 75 km (45 miles) south of the capital Sarajevo, monitors said. There were no reports of injuries.

In Durres, 13 bodies were pulled from collapsed buildings and 45 people were rescued from the wreckage there and in Thumane.

After a 14-hour ordeal, a 30-year-old woman was extracted alive from the ruins of a six-storey building, two hours after police removed the body of her eight-year-old daughter.

At dusk, a woman called Bukuri Morina and her family of 10 joined thousands of others to spend the night at the Durres soccer stadium, where the army had pitched tents.

[GRAPHIC WARNING: Some of the following images depict scenes of injury or death.]

Rescuers carry an injured woman after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Thumane. Rescue crews used excavators to search for survivors trapped in toppled apartment buildings after a powerful pre-dawn earthquake in Albania. (Photo: Hektor Pustina/AP)

"We are afraid to go back to our apartment," she said. "There are cracks all over and we are afraid that we will have the same destiny as people in Thumane."

Located along the Adriatic and Ionian seas, between Greece and Macedonia, Albania experiences regular seismic activity.

A 5.6 magnitude quake hit Albania on Sept. 21, damaging about 500 houses. The Defence Ministry said then it was the most powerful quake in Albania for the past 30 years.

The images of damage from Tuesday's quake suggested it was stronger than one in 1979 which razed a district of a northern town. Neither of those two earlier quakes caused deaths.

Albania is the poorest country in Europe, with per capita income a quarter of the European Union average, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Read more of this story by Benet Koleka and Fatos Bytyci/Reuters on Yahoo News >>>


People stand next to a damaged hotel after an earthquake in Durres, western Albania, on Nov. 26. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook the country. The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered 18.6 miles northwest of the capital of Tirana. It was at a depth of 6.2 miles. (Photo: AP)
A man looks inside a damaged building in the coastal city of Durres, west of the capital Tirana, after an earthquake hit Albania. (Photo: /AFP via Getty Images)
Emergency workers clear debris at a damaged building in Thumane. (Photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP via Getty Images)
A man passes next to a damaged building after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Durres, western Albania. (Photo: Hektor Pustina/AP)
Relatives of people living at a collapsed building await news in Thumane. (Photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP via Getty Images)
Rescue crews used excavators to search for survivors trapped in toppled apartment buildings in Albania. (Photo: Hektor Pustina/AP)
Rescuers carry an injured man after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Thumane. (Photo: Visar Kryeziu/AP)
Rescuers search at a damaged building after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Thumane. (Photo: Visar Kryeziu/AP)
Soldiers carry a body pulled out from debris in Durres. (Photo: Olsi Shehu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A damaged building is seen in Thumane. (Photo: Florion Goga/Reuters)
Soldiers carry a body pulled out from debris in Durres. (Photo: Olsi Shehu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Rescue workers remove debris from a collapsed building in Thumane. (Photo: Armend NimaniI/AFP via Getty Images)
Soldiers and rescue workers carry an injured man found in debris of a collapsed building in Thumane. (Photo: Armend NimaniI/AFP via Getty Images)
Soldiers and civilians conduct a search-and-rescue operation at a damaged building in Durres. (Photo: Olsi Shehu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Military personnel and locals work near a damaged building in Thumane, after an earthquake shook Albania, November 26, 2019. (Photo: Florion Goga/Reuters)
Emergency workers carry a woman in Thumane. (Photo: Florion Goga/Reuters)
Rescuers search at a damaged building in Thumane. (Photo: Visar Kryeziu/AP)
Military and emergency personnel help an injured man in Thumane. (Photo: Florion Goga/Reuters)
A damaged building in Thumane. (Photo: Florion Goga/Reuters)
Relatives of people living at a collapsed building in Thumane. (Photo: Armend NimaniI/AFP via Getty Images)

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