Torrential rain, floods paralyze Albania; 1 person dead

A bulldozer cleans a highway from debris after heavy rainfalls in Tirana, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. A power company worker died and three others were injured Thursday after torrential rain in Albania flooded agricultural land, damaged roads and left tens of thousands of people without electricity, authorities said. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania - At least one person died during heavy rainfall that flooded many parts of Albania, paralyzing its ports and causing flights from its only international airport to be suspended, authorities said Friday.

Three other people were injured and 314 homes were destroyed in weather-related incidents over 24 hours, the government said in a statement. Schools remained closed nationwide.

Many roads remained blocked across the Balkan country, while some 127,000 residents were affected by power cuts. Albania's army and health ministry used helicopters Friday to evacuate people from flooded areas.

Police reported Friday morning that the western highway leading into the capital Tirana was partly cleared but other roads remained flooded. They said a shopping mall close to the capital where some 100 persons had been trapped was also evacuated.

The government urged citizens to heed official safety advice, warning that the "situation is expected to get aggravated later today, especially in the country's south."

Authorities sent some 5,700 troops, police and emergency responders and 900 vehicles to the southern districts of Gjirokastra, Fier and Vlora where several rivers were at risk of overflowing. Kosovo also sent more than two dozen emergency responders.

Speaking from Ura a Mifolit, a spot 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Tirana threatened by the overflow of the Vjosa River, Prime Minister Edi Rama also called on citizens to evacuate the threatened areas.

"Let's save human lives, the most cattle possible and then, when the sun comes back, we will make the calculations (of the losses and damage)," Rama said.

About 2,200 hectares (5400 acres) of agricultural land was flooded, officials said.

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