Croatian Earthquake Aftershocks: A Home Destroyed, Loan Repayments Unaffected

By 2 January 2021

January 2, 2020 - Among the many Croatian earthquake aftershocks to contend with, homeowners with bank loans but no specialised earthquake insurance face an anxious future. 

It is one thing to lose it all, but another thing to then lose it all again. 

The TCN inbox has been full of tragic tales and urgent pleas as a result of the tragic events of December 29 in Petrinja, Glina, Sisak, Majske Poljane and surrounding areas - heartbreaking accounts which understandably focus on the immediate need. 

And while it is entirely right to focus on the immediate need (learn more on those efforts in TCN's recent tour of the devastated area in Majske Poljane, Glina, Petrinja: A Foreigner View of Croatia's Emergency Response), the ensuing Croatian earthquake aftershocks are not confined to tremors underground, but are also financial. 

Consider, for example, the many people in Croatia (both from the Zagreb earthquake of March 22, and the recent quakes around Petrinja), who have had homes partially or totally destroyed, homes that they have bought with the aid of credit from the bank. 

Earthquake insurance is a special additional option, and my understanding is that only about 15% of homes in Croatia have this additional policy  Which means that 85% do not. With more than 2,000 buildings damaged in Tuesday's quake alone, it does not take a mathematician to work out the scale of the problem.  

Having earthquake insurance does not necessarily fix the problem, however, as several people told me after the Zagreb earthquake - the insurance claim success lay in the devil of the detail of the small print, which is rarely worded for the benefit of the consumer. As TCN reported in mid-September, some 6,255 claims had been paid out after the Zagreb earthquake six months earlier, with some claims (according to friends) rejected because an earthquake had to be of a certain magnitude for the insurance to be applicable. 

Tragically,  there will be cases of people  who are uninsured who have lost their homes, and it remains to be seen what longterm help they will receive from the government. 

But imagine that you not only have lost your home, but your obligations to that home remain, even if you will no longer have any benefit from it. 

One horrible example of such a case was highlighted in 24Sata yesterday. Nutritionist Diana Gluhak Spajic has done some sterling work with her Healthy School Meals programme, and her work has been featured on TCN in the past. Having experienced the Zagreb earthquake in March, she and husband Branimir decided to buy their first home together not in Zagreb but a short drive away, in Sisak. 

Both entrepreneurs and directors of their company, they invested their savings and gave the bank the appropriate guarantees, thereby receiving the credit necessary to secure a 30-year loan from the bank to move into their dream home, one of 6 apartments in a building in Sisak. 

Timeline November 27, 32 days before disaster struck.  There was not even enough time to make the first repayment to the bank before the home was rendered uninhabitable. More tremors since the 24Sata article have resulted in even more damage. 

A terrible tale of loss on one level, but a second terrible reality was about to hit. 

The property was insured for standard damage but not (like 85% of properties in Croatia) for earthquake damage. And while the bank no doubt had sympathy for their plight and offered a moratorium on repayments, the repayments must come. 

Now back in Zagreb paying rent in a temporary place to live which was itself damaged in the March earthquake, the couple simply cannot afford to keep paying rent in one place, as well as loan repayments to a home that they can no longer use. Payments for the next 30 years. 

These are, of course, uncertain times and very early days, and one might perhaps also have some sympathy for the banks who are entitled to see their money - they were not the cause of the earthquake.  In order to improve its chances of seeing its money, the bank would be within its right to block accounts, take salaries etc., which would result in the probably bankrupting of a small Croatian company.

And with such a terrible situation, arguably the best option available would be one which is being taken by an increasing number of Croatia's youngest and brightest talent - emigration. 

Diana and  Branimir have started a crowdfunding campaign, details of which are published in full below. While supporting the campaign would be greatly appreciated by the young couple, their plight also highlights the urgent need to address this situation in general - theirs is far from an isolated incident. 

Sisak earthquake in Croatia 29.12.2020. charity to fix our home 

The devastating earthquake happened on December 29th 2020 and heavily destroyed Sisak-Moslavina County in Croatia; mainly Cities of Sisak, Petrinja and Glina. Cataclysmic earthquake, ranked at 6.4 on Richter scale, had an epicentre near City of Petrinja. 80% od the City of Petrinja was destroyed and most of the City of Sisak. We feel emotionally destroyed furthermore because now we have 50 medium and small earthquakes every day, ranging from 1.5 to 4.9 on the Richter scale. By now, we had 7 casulties, and dozen of people injured. Just by saying this, we are petrified and mentally, very exhausted.

Just one month ago, we just took a bank credit loan to buy this home in the City of Sisak, Frankopanska 5 and before we even had the chance to move, our home was completely destroyed and unhabitable. It was our only home. So we are now at a standstill. :(

Building has cracked on four places and imagine, outer walls are 70cm thick. All of the chimneys have cracked trough the whole building and have collapsed and damaged the roof completely. Some of the chimneys have penetrated the roof and fallen into the building. Hallway on the 1st floor has detached from the building and it is "hanging" and leaning to outer left side, and it is also cracked in numerous places. Building has somehow separated in a few places with huge cracks. In our apartment, we have 43 cracks that we counted so far, and all of the load-bearing walls have cracked completely. Massive damage has happened in our bedroom where the roof has collapsed on our bed where we sleep. Also, all of the windows have cracks from inside to the outer wall.

We don't have the money to rebuild our home. We don't expect that the building will be built again by the government, and we don't have any place to live or to start a family, and the bank doesn't want to cancel the loan contract. This puts us in a situation that really nobody wants to be. We cannot get a new credit loan, nor can we pay this credit loan and pay the rent in another apartment. The credit loan will definitely be in effect, and this means that we will be obliged to pay the loan for the next 30 years that, for the home that doesn't even exist.

I'm very sad to be writing this, as this is a situation I never thought I would be. My only home was destroyed, and I, as a person that was previously helping others, am now asking for complete strangers to help me. Is there someone that understands my situation and wants to help my family and me? Are there still people with kindness in their heart to help us with a small donation? :)

We are asking for your help and support to rebuild our home so we could start our family.

Please, we need 64.000 EUR. If we manage to raise more money, it will be given to our unfortunate neighbours that have also lost their home.

Thank you, Branimir Spajić and Diana Gluhak Spajić

EDIT: Currently there is only the option to pay via Paypal, credit card and bank transfer. Working on other ways of payment.

If you would like to donate to help Diana and Branimir, you can donate here.

For more on the Petrinja earthquake, follow the dedicated TCN section.