Arrests Over Albania Building Collapse

10 November 2008  Tirana – Eight people were arrested after the collapse of an apartment building in southern Albania left two women dead, a young girl missing and four others injured.

Rescue crews continued on Monday to search for a 12-year-old girl that is believed to be under the debris of the building that collapsed on Sunday in the southern Albanian city of Gjirokastra, close to the Greek border.

The first victim, a 65-year-old woman, was pulled out on Monday morning. Emergency crews, firefighters and police launched a rescue mission after the apartment building where 30 families lived collapsed.
So far four people have been taken to the local hospital.

According to the Ministry of Interior, construction work on a new building at the base of the hill – where the apartment block is located – may have caused the collapse. The owner of the construction firm, it’s technical director and six local officials were placed under arrest.

Real estate has been booming in Albania for a decade. Price increases were fuelled by strong domestic demand, availability of mortgage loans, fast-flowing remittances from family members working abroad and a strong migratory trend from rural to urban areas.

Nowhere domestically has the economic buoyancy yielded greater change than in the property market, with the construction industry accounting for 47 per cent of overall economic activity in 2006.

However, the fast pace of growth, coupled with weak state institutions and corruption, has reduced oversight on constriction sites.

The local office of the watchdog group Transparency International stated on Sunday that the incident was the result of lack of regulations and weak enforcement of existing rules in the construction industry because of corruption.

The local media reported that the inhabitants of the collapsed building had continually complained about the construction and had even had filed a suit against the developers of the new building.

Morning shows in TV stations were filled with calls from people reporting similar situations.

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