VIENNA, AUG. 8 -- Albania placed its main Adriatic ports under military control today in an attempt to clear them of thousands of people trying to flee the country, Albanian television reported. Italy, meanwhile, declared an emergency along its Adriatic coast to block the wave of refugees, but an Albanian freighter packed with about 10,000 Albanians defied the blockade and docked at Bari, Italy.

Italian officials rounded up the refugees, brought them to a soccer stadium and announced they would be returned to Albania. {Police opened fire Thursday night as thousands tried to break out of the stadium, Reuter reported. Bari hospital workers said three refugees had been shot and two were in serious condition.}

Lt. Francesco Palumbo of the Bari port authority said hundreds of Albanians jumped overboard and swam ashore. "As the ship came into port, as many as a thousand people just threw themselves into the water," Palumbo said.

He said a navy frigate, 10 cutters and two tugboats had blocked the harbor entrance, but the freighter, identified as the Vlora, ignored appeals to turn back and forced its way into port.

Thousands stormed the Albanian port of Durres on Wednesday, clambering aboard ships docked there to try to flee to Italy.

Albanian TV had reported Wednesday that 12 people were killed as they swam under gunfire to try to board the ships. Today, the TV gave a much lower figure, saying two women had drowned the previous day.

Albanian authorities put four Adriatic ports -- Durres, Vlore, Shengjin and Sarande -- under Defense Ministry control today, according to a government statement carried by the Albanian state news agency ATA, monitored in Vienna.

State TV said two men were killed early Thursday, one shot in an incident aboard a ship in Durres, and the other shot by police as they tried to clear the harbor. No further details were given.

{ATA said the Albanian cabinet met in emergency session Wednesday night to discuss the crisis, Reuter reported. Political sources told Reuter that passenger trains, the main means of long-distance transport in Albania, had been stopped until further notice. Security forces were given 48 hours to restore normality.}

An Albanian journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity described the situation in Durres as "very tense."

Albania's economy is in ruins following decades of Stalinist rule and isolationist policies. Most consumer goods are unavailable in the Balkan nation of 3.2 million people, and many staples are scarce and rationed.

Many young Albanians had placed their hopes on Communist Albania's first opposition group, the Democratic Party, which was legalized in December and made a strong showing in the country's first free elections in six decades on March 31. The Democrats joined a coalition government with the renamed Communists in June, but the new administration has failed to stop economic collapse.