26 DEAD OVER 300 WOUNDED IN ALBANIA BLAST EXPLOSION

A chain of massive explosions at an ammunition depot over the weekend kill 26 people and leave over 300 injured near the Tirana capital of Albania. Some 1,000 soldiers...
A chain of massive explosions at an ammunition depot over the weekend kill 26 people and leave over 300 injured near the Tirana capital of Albania. Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence.  Tirana, Albania / Monday, March 17, 2008
By: Vedat Xhymshiti/DagBladet.no
 
The 2008 Gërdec explosions occurred at approximately noon local time on Saturday 15 March 2008 at an ex-military ammunition depot in the village of Gërdec in the Vorë Municipality, Albania around 15 kilometers far away from Tirana. The explosions could be heard in the FYROM/Macedonian capital of Skopje, 170 km away from Tirana. A large fire caused a series of explosions that continued until 2 a.m. on late Sunday.

The main explosion, involving more than 400 tons of propellant in containers, destroyed hundreds of houses within a few kilometers from the depot and broke windows in cars on the Tirana-Durrës highway. Thousands of artillery shells, most of them unexploded, littered the area. The blast shattered all the windows of the terminal building at the country’s “Mother Teresa” only international airport, and all flights were suspended for some 40 minutes. Some 4,000 inhabitants of the zone were evacuated and offered shelter in state-owned resorts. The Government declared the zone a disaster area. According to subsequent investigations, a privately managed ammo dismantling process was ongoing in the area.

The number of the casualties climbs to 17 in the tragedy that occurred yesterday at noon in the weapons storehouse in Gërdec. A young woman at the age of 19 has passed away today in the hospital as a result of the suffered burns. The police sources informed that some of the workers that have been working in the storehouse are missing. It has been announced that a number of the wounded who are in life threatening condition will be transferred today in Puglia-Italy.
The latest blast occurred today at around 1:00/pm, but with a lower intensity and at around 2:00/pm a body was found under the rubble of one of the houses in Gërdec. It belonged to a male in his 40’ies and it is believed that he has been a private contracted guard, judging by his uniform. Another body had been found by the units of the military engineers at the very site of the blast but the identity remains unknown and the body has been send to the morgue in Tirana.
 
Anila Muka an inhabitant of Gërdec said that she knows nothing about the fate of her brother Arif. “They have sent Arif to Greece for further treatment. I am completely confused, I don’t know where my kids are; I have seen them in front of me as I was sheltered inside of a bunker, but after the yesterday’s second blast I have fainted and a few ours later when I woke up I didn’t find my son and my daughter who both are around 9 years old” She ads that it cannot be a coincidence that none of the employers of the American company was not present at the site exactly in the day of the blast. Mrs. Muka’s husband is a worker in this company and she still doesn’t know anything about his fate.
 
Another injured inhabitant who has suffered serious wounds in his head expresses his suspicion about the coincidence of the absence a cell phone network in the area as he bursts his emotions in words “We want a government that governs the people, we don’t want thieves, we don’t want traitors who would even trade our lives in the way that they did. This government should resign; it is an occupying government and we are being ruled by foreigners as a result of the anarchist management of this government that is harmful for the people”.

The units of the military engineers continue their search all over the village of Gërdec, putting red flags and sealing zones with red tape, which are the sites where the missiles have landed after being thrown in the air due to the blasts. Most of these missiles remain unexploded and pose a permanent threat for the lives of anybody who is situated in that area. Until these moments the march of the missing persons continues; the current figures put their number at 11. While the police haven’t permitted the inhabitants to return to their houses, the influx of the citizens of the town of Vorë hasn’t stopped, as they were taking clothes and basic supplies before heading towards Tirana, the capitol of Albania.

 
 
BERISHA: the state will rebuild the damaged houses
More than 2000 homes have been completely destroyed and 300 more have suffered heavy damage, while the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha declared that very soon a commission will be established to asses the damage and that the state will rebuild the damaged houses of that area. On the other hand the entitled departments of the prosecuting authorities from the county of Durrës and Tirana have confirmed for ‘DagBladet’ that they have started their investigations on the case of yesterday’s blasts in Gërdec. Dozens of survivors have been subject to the investigation as well as Albanian employees of the American company who survived the gigantic explosion. The pair of the prosecuting authorities has confirmed for the agency that if the explosions would cease today, the group of the prosecutors is expected to go to the most critical point at the site of the blast, the crater that was opened by the explosion, in attempt to find the cause of the accident. Officially, Albanian authorities confirmed 26 deaths in the explosions. Officials report the number of injured people at over 300. According to figures published by the Prime Minister’s Office, 2,306 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the explosions. Of these, 318 houses were destroyed completely, 200 buildings were seriously damaged, and 188 buildings were less seriously damaged.

Ajshe Selami 6 yrs,, with her brother and mother are being treated in intensive unit in the military hospital in Tirana, Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)

 


Victims are being treated in intensive unit in the military hospital in Tirana, Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)

 

 
Victim Bardha Laqi, 69yrs, being treated in intensive unit in the military hospital in Tirana, Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)
 
 
Victim Fitnete (Hamit) Muka, 68yrs, being treated in intensive unit in the military hospital in Tirana, Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)
 
 
Victim Qamil Alla 70yrs, being treated in intensive unit in the military hospital in Tirana, Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)
 
 
Victim Mariglen Faruku 29yrs, showing his wound, being treated in intensive unit in the military hospital in Tirana, Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)
 
 
Victim Flogerta Murati 18yrs, showing her wound, being treated in intensive unit in the military hospital in Tirana, Some 1,000 soldiers and 500 policemen search for victims throughout the disaster zone, with unexploded shells and munitions from the communist-era military depot still littering the dangerous site. As the country declares a day of national mourning, three people are arrested for negligence. (Photo/Vedat Xhymshiti)
 
Text and Picture Copyright 1997 – 2011 Vedat Xhymshiti. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable. | Vedat Xhymshiti © 1997 – 2011

Vedat Xhymshiti; is an independent journalist and war correspondent. He has reported on a number of Middle Eastern conflicts from the Arab Spring in 2010 to the current Syrian civil war. He has been published in various media including Der Spiegel, NY Times, TIME, Paris Match, Le Monde ect. He is specialized in International Relations and Diplomacy. Xhymshiti is also a print media critic, a columnist for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and founder of THEFrontliner.net

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