Monday, 27 July 2020

After Floods, Earthquake, COVID-19, The City Is Not Broken: This Is Zagreb!

July 27, 2020 – OPINION: Marc Rowlands downplays the doom and gloom, claiming it will take even more than 2020's disasters to permanently damage Zagreb

International readers must think the city has fallen. After the triple hit of COVID-19, the strongest earthquake in a century, and last weekend's floods, they must imagine the people of Zagreb to be largely underwater, the tips of their toes resting on rubble, struggling to breathe above the waves through their surgical masks.

Their suspicions would only be justified if they're reading the comments sections of the coverage. “Oh, whatever next?”, “What will become of us?”, “May God save us!”, “First an earthquake, now snow! It's the end of the world!”, “It's because of global warming, I told you years ago. Now, not even my bitterness can save us”. Jadni smo (poor us).

That's because there are two types of people in this world; the doom-mongers - useless pessimists who sigh, tut, and briefly sympathise while reading the news, and then there are the positive thinkers who actually get up off their ass and help out. Sadly, the internet is full of the former. Thankfully, Zagreb is full of the latter.

Take for example Mirna Mrčela, who rescued a man from a sinking car on Friday night. Did she stop to worry about the implications for her or for the sunken city before diving into waters on Miramarska street to save him? She did not.

What about the young Zagreb residents who gave up their free time to help rebuild people's homes following this year's earthquakes? Or those who volunteered to help move children from the damaged wards of a hospital? What about the thousands of Croats who thought of innovative or compassionate schemes to raise money for those affected? Or the many more who donated? Or those who used their own drones to help assess damage to buildings? Was their assistance delayed by worry and self-pity? No.

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Thousands of young people have been gathering outside the Croatian National Theatre at weekends. The real picture in Zagreb © Marc Rowlands

Even aside those who actually helped out, the story of Zagreb in the wake of both the earthquake and the floods has been one of irrepressible resilience, optimism, and joy. Thousands of young people have gathered outside the Croatian National Theatre at weekends simply enjoying to be, and each other. In recent weeks, Ribnjak Park, Zrinjevac Park, and Strossmayer Promenade in the city have come alive with gastronomic events, music, and people enjoying themselves.

On Monday 27 July, as the sun shines brightly above Zagreb, the last remnants of the flood are all but gone. People are at work, as usual, and some tourists can be seen taking tours around Tkalčićeva and the cathedral. No matter what news story comment sections might tell you, this city is open for business. Zagreb has seen much worse than this. And it will take a lot more than rain, earthquakes or, yes, even snow to dampen its spirits.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Croatian Red Cross to Provide Financial Aid to Owners of Quake-Damaged Homes

ZAGREB, July 20, 2020 - The Croatian Red Cross will donate HRK 2 million to residents whose homes were severely damaged in the 22 March earthquake that hit Zagreb and northwestern Croatia.

Applications for financial aid can be submitted from 21 July to 17 August.

Aid can be sought by owners of properties declared unfit for use provided that such applicants also meet some other social criteria that make them eligible. For instance, single parents with a minimum gross monthly wage of HRK 4,062 or pensioners with a pension allowance of less than 2,000 per member of their household are eligible for aid.

The two million kunas for this purpose was raised through donations from private individuals, companies, and international organisations.

More information is available at www.hck.hr. 

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Thursday, 18 June 2020

INA Donates HRK 800 K Each To 3 Cultural Institutions Damaged In Earthquake

ZAGREB, June 18, 2020 - The INA oil company has donated a total of HRK 2.4 million to three cultural and scientific institutions, with each receiving HRK 800,000 to repair the damage caused by a destructive earthquake that struck Zagreb in March this year.

The Croatian Academy of Science and Arts (HAZU), Museum of Arts and Crafts (MUO) and Archaeological Museum on Thursday each received the donations in the HAZU palace, which too was damaged in the quake.

INA CEO Sandor Fasimon presented the donations to HAZU president Velimir Neidhardt, MUO director Miroslav Gasparovic and the director of the Archaeological Museum, Sanjin Mihelic.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Earthquake Damage HRK 86 bn, Croatia Applies For Support From EU Solidarity Fund

ZAGREB, June 10, 2020 - The Croatian government will apply to the European Commission for financial support from the EU Solidarity Fund in repairing damage caused by an earthquake that struck Zagreb and its environs on March 22. The damage is estimated at €11.5 billion, while the maximum amount that can be obtained from the fund is €600 million.

During its meeting on Wednesday, the government adopted a conclusion on the application for financial support from the EU Solidarity Fund which has been aligned with the methodology used by the UN, EU, and World Bank, which is essential for submitting a request for assistance from the fund.

Based on this methodology, the direct damage caused by the quake to 25,000 buildings in Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje County is estimated at HRK 86 billion or €11.5 billion, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said, adding that the European Commission had been sensitized about Croatia's application and would consider it.

The maximum amount of aid from the fund is €600 million and Croatia expects the first installment of €100 million this summer and the rest by the end of the year.

The aid funds can be used for 18 months after being approved.

To illustrate the extent of the damage, Minister for Regional Development and EU Funds Marko Pavic said that the EU's seven-year financial envelope for Croatia amounts to €10.7 billion.

According to Pavic, such aid can primarily be used for the reconstruction of hospitals and schools, infrastructure and energy supply installations, drinking water, and telecommunications facilities.

Prime Minister Plenkovic added that the total amount of direct damage caused by the earthquake was equal to 60% of the state budget and that 22 Peljesac bridges with access roads could be built with that amount.

He announced that the government would seek other sources to finance the reconstruction of Zagreb and its environs, adding that donor conferences were not an option in the EU because they were organised for third countries.

Of the aid from the fund, HRK 54 million (€7.2 million) would go towards covering the costs of accommodation rental for citizens who cannot return to their own homes, strengthening the infrastructure of cultural heritage, and the costs of cleaning operations, Minister Pavic added.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Smaller Earthquake Rattles Zagreb Again

June 10, 2020 — Zagreb rattled and shook in the early morning, but thankfully the quake was much weaker than its predecessors.

Croatia’s Seismological Service recorded a weak earthquake of magnitude 2.4 on the Richter scale with an epicenter in Zagreb, not far from Markuševac at 4:15 am on Wednesday.

The intensity of the earthquake at the epicenter was grade III of the EMSC scale.

After two strong earthquakes of 5.5 and 4.8 on the Richter scale, which hit Zagreb in the early morning hours of March 22, the city subsequently shook about 1,000 more times, which was expected. A moderate earthquake measuring 3.2 on the Richter scale hit Zagreb on April 23.

“This shook well and things and glasses rang. It’s a terrible feeling,” one person wrote in comments on the EMSC website.

A Jutarnji List reader from Granešina also says that the earthquake woke them up. Another reader from Zagreb wrote:

“Terrible feeling! Fear has been present since that first earthquake.”

“Subsequent earthquakes are a common occurrence and these are exactly those earthquakes,” Ines Ivančić, head of the Seismological Service, told HRT. “Up to half a year later they can be expected. It is not known how many more there will be as well as their strength. We cannot predict when it will happen.

“We know in which area the biggest earthquake can happen, and Zagreb is a seismically active area. Citizens should not panic and they should listen to the instructions of the Civil Protection Directorate.”

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Left-Green Coalition Launching Petition To Speed Up Law On Zagreb's Reconstruction

ZAGREB, June 7, 2020 - A coalition of six left-wing and green parties are launching a petition on Tuesday to ask President Zoran Milanovic to call an emergency meeting after the formation of the new parliament to adopt a new reconstruction bill after a strong earthquake struck Zagreb on March 22.

The initiative is being launched by the coalition of the parties We Can!, the New Left, the Workers' Front, Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH), Zagreb Is Ours! and For the City.

The petition will be open for signature at several locations in the city and online, Tomislav Tomasevic, who will head the coalition's slate in the July 5 parliamentary election, told a press conference outside the government and parliament buildings in St Mark's Square in Zagreb on Sunday.

Tomasevic recalled that it was about two and a half months since the earthquake had struck the capital and its surroundings and that many problems remained unsolved. "Two months after the earthquake the Croatian parliament was dissolved without passing a bill on the reconstruction of Zagreb which the present government had been announcing for weeks," he said.

Given the forthcoming elections and the fact that parliament would take a summer break from July 15 to September 15, Tomasevic said that the coalition parties had decided to launch a petition to President Zoran Milanovic because under the Constitution the President can call an emergency session of parliament. In that case, the new parliament would start work immediately after its inaugural meeting, and lawmakers would not go on holiday but would work on a new bill on the reconstruction of Zagreb and its surroundings.

Tomasevic said they were angry because only 16 families whose homes were severely damaged in the earthquake had been granted state-funded accommodation. "Many families cannot find rented accommodation because owners are reluctant to rent their apartments for a longer-term and because they don't want to pay tax to the state," he said, accusing the government of tolerating the black market for an apartment rental for decades.

Tomasevic said they were also angry because the government had still not reported the damage to the European Solidarity Fund so that money could be drawn for Zagreb and its residents.

In conclusion, he said he believed that because of all this the citizens would punish both Mayor Milan Bandic and the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic at the ballot and would put their confidence in this coalition to fight for better laws.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

International Medical Corps' Donation Delivered To Croatia

ZAGREB, June 3, 2020 - A HRK 1 million donation of the International Medical Corps from the USA was presented to Croatia's Health Ministry on Wednesday by the head of the Croatian office of that global humanitarian organization, Ivana Petkovic.

The donation, delivered to the Croatian civil protection directorate's logistic centre in Jastrebarsko, consists of 70,400 KN95 ventilator masks, 12,000 face shields, and 18 pulse oximeters. The donation is aimed at contributing to the protection of Croatian medical staff against the coronavirus.

Seeing that Zagreb and its environs were struck by the March 22 devastating earthquake which put some of the health institutions and medical equipment out of use, the International Medical Corps made this donation in an effort to relieve the consequences of the earthquake, the civil protection directorate informed.

In attendance at the donation-delivery ceremony was US Ambassador to Croatia William Robert Kohorst, Croatian Assistant Interior Minister Damir Trut, and the director of the Croatian Emergency Medical Service, Maja Grba Bujevic.

The International Medical Corps is a global, nonprofit, humanitarian aid organisation dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering by providing emergency medical services, as well as healthcare training and development programs, to those affected by disaster, disease or conflict.

Croatia has intensified its cooperation with the USA in the area of civil protection over the past five years particularly with the Minnesota National Guard in the segment of disaster response preparedness through exchanging the know-how in the prevention and participating in exercises in the field.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Germany Donates €85,000 Equipment To Croatia To Mitigate Quake Consequences

ZAGREB, May 27, 2020 - The German government has made a donation of technical equipment valued at €85,000 to Croatia's Civil Protection in its efforts to deal with the consequences of the March 22 earthquake in Zagreb and its environs

The donation has come from the German Technisches Hilfswerk (THW) civil protection organisation controlled by the German federal government and Germany's Ambassador to Croatia, Robert Klinke formally presented the donation to Assistant Interior Minister Dami Trut at the civil protection logistics centre in Jastrebarsko, on the outskirts of Zagreb.

The equipment consists of ten light balloons and one hundred diesel heaters used in tents. Ambassador Klinke said that the equipment can be used to address to quake consequences and for other civil protection activities.

The diplomat mentioned the fact that as a result of the two strong earthquakes that struck Zagreb on March 22 during restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 epidemic, many citizens can still not return to their homes before the comprehensive reconstruction of their buildings.

"The Federal Republic of Germany feels solidarity for its friend Croatia and has responded to the Croatian government's call and has donated this equipment to Croatia's civil protection organisation which can be transported and used day and night both during repairs and in rescue missions," Ambassador Klinke said and wished Croatia a lot of strength in the reconstruction of Zagreb and its environs affected by the earthquake.

Assistant Minister Trut expressed gratitude for the donation and described the permanent good cooperation between various institutions and organisations in both countries.

"In the past ten years we have been partners in 18 projects and now in another three and they are mostly conducted with Germany's THW as the greatest force in civil protection in Germany. In addition to this donation, we received support during the migrant crisis and during the COVID-19 pandemic we received tests and medical protective equipment," Trut said adding that Germany's greatest support to Croatia was in mine clearance valued at €9 million.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Zagreb Activists Accuses HDZ, City Mayor Of Passiveness In Post-quake Rebuilding

ZAGREB, May 24, 2020 - The political platforms and parties led by activists Tomislav Tomasevic and Sandra Bencic on Sunday reiterated their accusations against Mayor Milan Bandic and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for failure to take decisive steps in the post-quake rebuilding of the city.

"We believe that the political passiveness of the HDZ and of Mayor Milan Bandic will cause a political quake in the next parliamentary elections," said Tomasevic, who together with another five activists held a news conference in front of Government House, on Sunday morning.

Tomasevic held a grudge against Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic for failing to initiate an international donor conference for the post-quake reconstruction of the capital city, and in this context he mentioned that for instance, Albania organised such conference for raising a billion euros, two months after its devastating quake in 2019. Northwestern Albania was struck by a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake on 26 November.

Zagreb and its environs were hit by a 5.5-strong quake on 22 March.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Government to Give 20,000 kuna per Household as Post-Quake Emergency Aid

ZAGREB, May 7, 2020 - The Croatian government has secured emergency aid in the amount of HRK 20,000 per household for the necessary protection and repair of buildings damaged in the March 22 quake that hit Zagreb and its environs, and it will soon put to public consultation a bill on the reconstruction of buildings.

The aid to be granted as emergency relief to households amounts to HRK 141 million in total, it was said at a government meeting on Thursday.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković asked the competent ministries to finalise a bill on the reconstruction of buildings damaged in the March 22 quake, saying that once the bill was consolidated, a final meeting would be held with representatives of the Zagreb city authorities, after which the bill would be put to brief public consultation and then forwarded to the parliament.

The government wants the bill to be good and comprehensive, Plenković said, noting that the damage caused by the quake was extensive.

Croatia will seek assistance from the EU as well, and PM Plenković said that Croatia would also seek "broader international arrangements, considering the scope of the damage."

The Construction and Physical Planning Ministry has been cooperating with the Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry on preparing the necessary documentation.

"The reconstruction process will last for years, notably the restoration of protected cultural monuments, Zagreb's symbols, but people who have been left without a roof over their head cannot wait that long. That is why it is important to make them feel safe again, provide accommodation for those who will not be able to return to their houses and flats so soon and secure the basic living conditions for them," said Construction and Physical Planning Minister Predrag Štromar.

The government today also made a decision to send financial aid for the global fight against the coronavirus in the amount of one million euros, pledged at an international conference in Brussels on May 4.

It also forwarded to the parliament a bill on the national allowance for elderly people, which proposes that as of January 1, 2021 the national pension for people over the age of 65 who have had uninterrupted residence in Croatia for 20 years, do not have a pension and are not employed, should amount to HRK 800 (slightly more than €100).

The government also adopted a national report on the rule of law in Croatia for the purpose of making an annual European Commission report on the rule of law in EU member states.

This is a new EC mechanism, it is being done for the first time, PM Plenković said, adding that several ministries had cooperated on making the report.

More news about the earthquake can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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