The Albanian government Thursday clamped military control on the port of Durres to halt thousands of would-be emigres from seizing ships and sailing to Italy.
The Council of Ministers, in a statement released by the official ATA news agency, also ordered that travel to Durres, other waterfront cities and the capital of Tirana be restricted to prevent "abnormal gatherings of people."The news came just after communist authorities announced that one person had been killed and at least eight others injured Wednesday as police dispersed a crowd of people pressing to enter foreign embassies.
Durres was still crowded with people hoping to clamber aboard boats headed to Italy, and another 550 people were reported to have departed for Yugoslavia Wednesday.
Thousands have sought to flee Albania, even though the country's first free elections in 46 years of communist rule are scheduled for March 31. There is little hope for improvement in the country's dire economic problems and turbulent politics.
"The seaport of Durres becomes a military zone," the Council of Ministers statement said. "It will be controlled and administered by the forces of People's Defense in coordination with the organs of power and transport."
Because the crowds have frozen port work, Albania cannot bring in the goods it desperately needs for its economy, it said.
The Democratic Party, the main opponent of the ruling communists, called the weeklong exodus - the third since last summer - a "national hemorrhage."