Fri | Dec 13, 2019

EU leads int’l help in quake recovery

Published:Tuesday | December 3, 2019 | 12:14 AM
Laundry hangs on a line from a damaged building in Thumane, western Albania, following a deadly earthquake.
Laundry hangs on a line from a damaged building in Thumane, western Albania, following a deadly earthquake.

TIRANA (AP):

Dozens of structural engineers from Europe and elsewhere are heading to Albania to help rebuild the country after a devastating earthquake last month killed 51 people and destroyed thousands of buildings, officials said.

The European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) are coordinating international efforts to assist Albania after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck on November 26, affecting more than half of the country’s population.

An EU team is leading the damage assessment and distribution of aid. Six EU member states have sent 50 structural engineers, with more to come, to assess the damage together with the local counterparts.

‘Unfailing links’

“In the midst of sorrow, grief, and fear, this week has shown the unfailing links between Albanians and their friends in the EU,” said Luigi Soreca, the EU ambassador to Albania.

The US Agency for International Development also has deployed structural engineers from the Fairfax County and Los Angeles County fire departments to assist with damage assessments.

Albanian Defense Minister Olta Xhacka praised the international response so far, saying the 780 rescuers who rushed to the country right after the quake helped to prevent more deaths.

The quake that hit Albania’s Adriatic coast also injured more than 3,000 people. Authorities give preliminary figures of 7,900 damaged buildings countrywide and more than 6,000 homeless sheltered in hotels, public buildings, tents, and with relatives, while neighbouring Kosovo has provided shelter to others.

The quake has affected about 1.9 million people out of the country’s 2.8 million population, according to the EU office in the capital of Tirana.

The worst-hit areas were the port town of Durres, a popular beach vacation spot for Albanians 33 kilometres (20 miles) west of Tirana, and the nearby northern town of Thumane.

U.S. singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha visited Bubq village, 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of the capital Tirana, to hand over aid.

Rexha, who is of ethnic Albanian origin, said she raised money through her fans to build two homes and is hoping to raise more.

“It’s really sad what’s happening here. That’s why I came here,” she said.

Prosecutors have started an investigation into possible illegal construction and violations of construction regulations.

Poor construction, building code violations and corruption are considered among the main reasons for the quake damage.