Hours later, another quake rattled Bosnia. Authorities said rescue work was "extremely difficult."
Albania was hit hard by one of the strongest european earthquakes in decades
A 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Albania early on Tuesday morning, causing several buildings to collapse. The official death toll reached 25 by Tuesday evening, while the fate of many others remains unknown.
At least another 600 people were injured in the strongest earthquake to hit the Balkan nation in decades. The epicenter was 10 kilometers (6 miles) northwest of Shijak, between Durres and the capital, Tirana, at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers, according to the US Geological Survey.
A man in his 50s was killed while jumping out of a building during the tremor, according to officials. Others were killed in building collapses in the coastal city of Durres and in Thumane. One of those killed was an elderly woman who saved her grandson by protecting him with her body, emergency workers told local media.
The Albanian government declared Wednesday a national day of mourning for the victims. Neighboring Kosovo, which has a large Albanian population, will also recognize Wednesday as a mourning day.
Albania searches through rubble
Rescue crews in Albania used excavators to search collapsed buildings for survivors. Local television broadcast footage of rescuers pulling a young boy from a collapsed building after an excavator moved a broken slab of concrete and people pulled mangled reinforcement bars out of the way. It was not immediately clear how many people were still under the rubble.
As of Tuesday night, non-stop rescue efforts have managed to retrieve more than 40 people. Defense Minister Olta Xhacka said that search and rescue work was continuing, but described it as "extremely difficult."
The rescue teams "have to work slowly because there is a high risk of further collapse, endangering not only residents but also those trapped, and the rescuers themselves," he said in a televised statement.
President Ilir Meta told journalists that "the situation is very dramatic. All efforts are being done to take the people out of the ruins.'' He called on the Cabinet to request international assistance.
Neighboring Kosovo was sending an emergency team to help with rescue efforts, while the European Union and the United States both offered immediate support.
Copernicus satellites have been activated
The EU said it had activated its Civil Protection Mechanism at the request of the Albanian authorities. While Albania is not an EU member, the mechanism allows Brussels to respond to emergencies outside EU borders.
The bloc engaged its Copernicus satellite monitoring system to deliver images of the area and mobilized three search and rescue teams, according to EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides.
"The European Union stands by Albania at this difficult time," the commissioner said in a statement.
Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Turkey, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia have all sent rescue assistance.
About 400 Albanian soldiers were erecting tents in two towns to shelter people with damaged houses.
Tuesday's quake was the second to hit the country in two months and was felt along the Adriatic coast.