Very early in the morning of November 26, 2019, a devastating earthquake of 6.4 magnitude shook Albania near the capital city of Tirana. Just a few hours later, a second earthquake of 5.4 magnitude struck the same area with both quakes ultimately killing 51 people and leaving thousands more homeless with damage to houses, apartments, schools and other buildings. Overall, it is estimated the earthquakes affected over 200,000 people.
The earthquakes plunged the country into a government-issued state of emergency which continued all the way through March 2020. More than 350 local volunteers from the Albanian Red Cross got involved in the response, including search and rescue where people were thought to be trapped in collapsed buildings in Thumane and Durres, the worst affected areas. It is believed to be the strongest earthquake to hit Albania in 30 years.
The Albanian Red Cross immediately deployed doctors and 160 volunteers to work at hospitals and a tent camp set up by the government to provide medical care, first aid, mental health support, food, water, blankets and hygiene items. Support poured in from the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network including rescue dogs and a doctor from the Swiss Red Cross, tents and blankets and other hygiene items from the Turkish Red Crescent, a medical and logistics team with more supplies from the Macedonan Red Cross and more.
For its part, the American Red Cross contributed $22,500 to help the Albanian Red Cross meet the needs of those affected by the earthquakes. The contribution supports the Albanian Red Cross’ response to provide immediate assistance. That comes in the form of first aid, food and other physical relief items, mental health counseling and help in connecting lost loved ones through the Red Cross’s Restoring Family Links program. More than 4,500 relief packages containing food, tents, hygiene items, kitchen sets, and clothes have already been distributed.
The funds can also be used towards a cash assistance program and helping communities reduce their risk to future disasters.
Finding safe shelter for people affected is the biggest concern as many were living in tents before the earthquake and continue to live in tents following it. The Albanian Red Cross is helping to find better places to live and more permanent accommodation for families. The Red Cross is also continuing to pay close attention to the physical and psychological effect this disaster will have on the people affected and has had volunteers on the ground since the beginning to comfort the survivors.