Saturday, 30 January 2021

PM Says Opposition Has Turned Its Back on Earthquake Victims

AGREB, 30 January, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that by breaking the quorum in the parliament on Friday, which was why amendments to the law on post-earthquake reconstruction were not voted in, the Opposition had "impudently turned its back" on earthquake victims in the Banovina region.

"Not only did they not enable the adoption of the law on post-earthquake reconstruction, they also prevented the declaration of the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Adriatic and the adoption of the National Development Strategy, which reveals an unbelievable degree of political destructiveness and lack of political culture," the PM said after a meeting of the task force dealing with the aftermath of the 29 December earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County, held in Petrinja.

Noting that his HDZ party would never do such a thing, Plenković stressed that amending the Act on the Post-Earthquake Reconstruction of the City of Zagreb and Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje Counties to make it apply also to Sisak-Moslavina County would simplify procedures and enable the state to launch reconstruction mechanisms.

"The Opposition's quorum-breaking is an immoral act in the context of the fact that an MP of the ruling majority is in hospital," Plenković said in reference to HDZ MP Miroslav Tuđman, who has been hospitalised for COVID-19 and whose absence the HDZ believes the Opposition took advantage of.

Burden of responsibility lies with Opposition

Plenković went on to say that the Opposition's motion regarding the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) was incomplete, demagogical and populist, describing the Bridge party, which tabled it, as destructive populists and proponents of anti-European and anti-minority policies.

Asked when the new law on post-earthquake reconstruction would be adopted, he referred reporters to opposition leaders, telling them "to ask Mr Grbin, Mr Petrov and Mr Škoro if they plan to help Banovina."

He repeated that the parliamentary majority was strong and stable regardless of the fact that its members did not see eye to eye on some topics.

The HGK needs to be reformed but you cannot just bring down an institution that has existed for more than 160 years, he said.

Amendments to the Act on the Post-Earthquake Reconstruction of the City of Zagreb and Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje Counties were among the motions that were to have been put to the vote in parliament on Friday.

After Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković moved from the agenda Bridge's motion to abolish the mandatory membership fee in the HGK, the Opposition walked out of the parliament, breaking the quorum. Since the HDZ-led majority was one vote short of the 76 MPs necessary to take a vote, the vote on amendments to the post-earthquake reconstruction law was postponed as well.

The Opposition has dismissed the accusations from the ruling HDZ party, accusing the ruling majority of tyranny and disregard for earthquake victims, with Social Democrat leader Peđa Grbin describing the HDZ's accusations against the Opposition with regard to HDZ MP Tuđman as shameless.

Hospitality sector, gym owners should show little more patience

Plenković today also called on cafe and restaurant owners, who have announced protests against the national COVID-19 response team's decision to keep current restrictions in force and only slightly relax some, to show a little more patience, stressing that nobody wanted to restrict business activity but that a large-scale relaxation of the restrictions would not be wise at the moment.

The restrictions will be reviewed on February 15 and if the situation then is much better than it is now and if we find room for additional relaxation, we will do it, he said.

Plenković was in Petrinja to attend the start of work on demolishing buildings that have been found unfit for use following the 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County last month.

He said that more than 1,025 mobile housing units had been installed in the area and that work would also be stepped up on completing the motorway section running from Lekenik to Sisak for the sake of future revitalisation and economic activity in the region of Banovina.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Quake Upset 87% of Citizens, Majority Unhappy With State's Response

ZAGREB, 30 January, 2021 - The magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck Sisak-Moslavina County on 29 December deeply upset Croatian citizens, with more than half saying in a survey they were dissatisfied with the state's engagement and organisation of aid in the affected area, the Hendal market research agency said this week.

The survey was conducted in mid-January and covered 500 respondents, with 87% saying the quake upset or deeply upset them.

About 40% of respondents helped those affected by donating money, 47% by donating goods and necessities, and 8% volunteered on the ground.

Of those who donated money, 16.2% did so directly to those affected, 8.9% donated to the Red Cross, 4.6% to Caritas, 3.3% paid into the government's official account, and 12.6% donated to other organisations and persons.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the state's engagement and organisation of aid in the affected area, 28% were neutral, and only 20% were satisfied.

Fifty-two percent of respondents also said the earthquake had no impact at all on their concern about COVID-19, while 28% said they were more concerned.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Magnitude 3.4 Aftershock Jolts Petrinja Area

ZAGREB, 25 January, 2021 - A magnitude 3.4 earthquake was registered near Petrinja at 1.37 a.m. on Monday, Croatia's Seismological Survey said.

The epicentre was 6 km southwest of the city. The Petrinja area was struck by a 6.2 magnitude quake on 29 December, killing seven people and causing enormous damage.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Structural Engineers: Quake Damaged Old, Some Poorly Reconstructed Buildings

ZAGREB, 24 January, 2021 - The most damaged buildings in the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck the Banija region on 29 December were old and some poorly reconstructed houses, while well-built houses have survived, the structural engineers who visited most of the affected areas have told Hina.

Structural engineers arrived in Petrinja on the morning of 29 December to see the effects of a magnitude 5 foreshock that hit the day before.

When the 6.2 tremor occurred shortly after noon on the 29th, we had to check everything again, says Mario Uroš, a professor at the Zagreb Faculty of Civil Engineering and a member of a group launched to determine the effects of the March 2020 Zagreb earthquake.

Nearly 1,300 structural engineers are registered with the Earthquake Engineering Centre which they launched then as a platform for entering information on inspected buildings.

Uroš says that in the first week after the 29 December earthquake, 200 teams with 500 engineers were engaged in and around Petrinja, Glina and Sisak. They used to enter information on 2,000 to 2,500 buildings inspected per day, twice as many as after the Zagreb quake.

Initially, all engineers participated in those inspections on a voluntary basis. Later, those who asked for them received per diems. Some companies would no longer allow their employees to volunteer, but many continued to work as volunteers.

One of them was Davor Grandić, a professor at the Rijeka Faculty of Civil Engineering who spent a week in Banija. He says the quake was extremely strong and that the damage was as expected.

Uroš says the number of actually destroyed buildings is high, but less than one might conclude by following the media.

Poorly built houses were damaged

Most of the damaged buildings were made of unreinforced masonry walls and bricks, Uroš says, adding that some new buildings were damaged but that 95% of those damaged were old.

The centre of Petrinja clearly shows that valuable historical heritage cannot survive if it is not reconstructed, he says.

Wooden houses fared best because they are light and can greatly absorb the blow and expend the energy of an earthquake, says Grandić.

Reinforced concrete houses that were built according to code also fared well, adds Uroš.

Most buildings have problems with chimneys and parts of gable walls, so we recommended their urgent removal, says Grandić. He adds that damage was frequent also due to construction of different quality.

How did post-war reconstruction affect demolition?

There has been a lot of public discussion about the fact that villages which were completely reconstructed after the 1991-95 war sustained unexpectedly extensive damage. Grandić and Uroš say the houses that were properly reconstructed resisted the earthquake.

A large majority of buildings was reconstructed well, Uroš says, adding that the reconstruction projects are quite good and that problems were probably due to unsupervised construction.

All the damaged houses had gross engineering errors during execution. Who is guilty, I don't know. It can be established easily, he says.

Houses that during reconstruction were built from scratch did not sustain major damage and are usable, says Grandić, while those that were reconstructed on existing foundations in an attempt to retain existing building outlines, which many owners wanted, sustained extensive damage.

Uroš agrees, saying that a typical error was that a house was repaired but not reconstructed. This means that a house was practically restored to its original condition, which was allowed in post-war reconstruction to facilitate refugee returns and due to the enormous number of houses that had to be reconstructed.

In such a strong earthquake, a well-built house may be damaged but it must not collapse or become dangerous to live in, says Uroš.

Regardless of the criticisms of the post-war reconstruction, reconstructed houses have resisted the earthquake relatively well, except in cases of gross construction errors, he adds.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

26 Houses in Hrvatska Kostajnica Declared Unfit for Use Since Quake

ZAGREB, 23 January, 2021 - The town of Hrvatska Kostajnica, located some 50 kilometres of the epicentre of the 29 December 6.2 earthquake, has sustained considerable damage from that disaster, and several hundred houses were either destroyed or damaged in that community with about 2,700 inhabitants.

 So far 26 houses have been declared unfit for use.

The mayor Dalibor Bišćan has recently said in an interview with Hina that reports about the quake damage are still being complied and sent to the relevant authorities.

A representative of the Sisak-Moslavina county task force for dealing with the aftermath of the quakes, has informed Hina that so far 400 chimneys and roofs in Hrvatska Kostajnica have been repaired since the December earthquake

This town on the left bank of the Una River, which is also the borderline with Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been exposed to natural disasters in the recent years.

Mayor Bišćan recalls that the quake was the third disaster in a short period.

He recalled disastrous floods and landslide that occurred in March 2018 when 12 family houses were destroyed.

The December earthquakes activated two landslides, jeopardising five houses.

Municipality of Dvor: So far 1,024 reports about quake damage

The mayor of the nearby municipality of Dvor, Nikola Arbutina has told Hina that the earthquake caused damage to this municipality which consists of 60 villages scattered on an area large over 505 square kilometres.

Arbutina, has said that most of Dvor 5,500 inhabitants are elderly citizens, living far from the municipality's centre.

To date, the authorities have received 1,024 reports about the quake damage.

Friday, 22 January 2021

New Seismological Equipment Set Up at Petrinja Cemetery

ZAGREB, 22 January, 2021 - Seismologist Krešimir Kuk set up and presented new earthquake-monitoring equipment at the cemetery in Petrinja on Friday, saying it would monitor the seismic activity of the series of tremors in the wider epicentral area that began recently.

Kuk set up seismographs and accelerographs procured for Croatia's Seismological Survey by the Science and Education Ministry for HRK 4.5 million.

The Petrinja area was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on 29 December and Kuk said the series of tremors was still very active.

"As expected, in time it will become weaker, both in terms of strength and frequency, but we expect seismic activity for several more months. The more time passes, the weaker the earthquakes," he said, underlining the importance of using reinforced concrete in construction.

Kuk said seismological equipment was very important but that good equipment was never enough because it would cover only the narrow epicentral area.

"There is a shortage of manpower and equipment, and now we must achieve a whole telecommunication infrastructure for the signal from this area to reach Zagreb, where it will be promptly processed. When these 20 seismographs are set up in this wider area, we will be able to say that we have the basis for registering every earthquake that occurs in this wider area in this series."

Having procured this equipment, for the first time in Croatia's history its Seismological Survey has the possibility to rapidly respond in case of stronger earthquakes and a mobile seismological equipment set which will be used across the country as needed.

Friday, 22 January 2021

German Firefighters Bring Third Convoy of Aid to Quake-Hit Area

ZAGREB, 22 January, 2021 - Forty-three German firefighters from the state of Baden-Württemberg on Friday brought the third convoy of aid to the quake-hit area in Croatia aboard 16 trucks and four vans, including 17 housing containers, firefighting equipment and construction materials.

The donation also included an ambulance.

The convoy was welcomed by a Croatian foreign ministry state secretary, Zdenko Lucić, and county fire marshal Mijo Brlečić.

The first convoy from Baden-Württemberg arrived on 2 January, bringing 110 tonnes of firefighting equipment, medical supplies and food.

The second, 23-truck convoy arrived on 8 January, bringing firefighting equipment, construction material, clothes, hygiene products and food. The donation included five vehicles for firefighters in the quake-hit area.

Fire marshal Brlečić thanked the German firefighters for their donation.

Friday, 22 January 2021

EP Adopts Resolution on Mitigating Consequences of Croatia Earthquakes

ZAGREB, 22 January, 2021 - Members of the European Parliament on Thursday adopted by a vast majority a resolution on mitigating the consequences of last year's earthquakes in Croatia, asking that all available EU instruments be used to help the country.

The resolution was supported by 677 MEPs while five voted against and one abstained.

Participating in drafting the resolution, initiated by Croatian MEP Valter Flego, were all Croatian members of the European Parliament.

The draft resolution "calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the EU and Croatian institutions, to devise a swift way of distributing the necessary financial and other assistance to ensure a speedy recovery of the affected areas."

In approving financial aid, the Commission is called upon to take account of the fact that Croatia is at the same time also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Croatia is called upon to prioritise "renovation in its recovery and resilience plan, devoting particular attention to comprehensive preventative renovations that ensure the highest seismic standards for housing and buildings at greatest risk in its most earthquake-prone regions."

Croatia is called upon to carefully monitor post-earthquake reconstruction to make sure the highest seismic standards are ensured for all buildings and infrastructure. 

The document says that the reconstruction process should be carried out as swiftly as possible, respecting transparency, applying best professional practices and taking account of the demographic aspect. Special focus should be placed on building the basic infrastructure that was lacking prior to the earthquake and access to basic needs and services should be promptly re-established in all parts of the affected areas.

The Commission is called upon to extend the 18-month time limit for the use of funds from the European Solidarity Fund in the event of a devastating earthquake.

The document also stresses the importance of prioritising residents of the affected areas for COVID-19 vaccination and encourages the Croatian government to implement the decision it has announced to redirect a significant proportion of its vaccine supply to Sisak-Moslavina County. 

The resolution also welcomes the decision of EU member states to give part of their vaccination supplies to Croatia.

Last year Croatia was struck by two strong earthquakes that were followed by a number of aftershocks. On 22 March, a 5.5 earthquake shook Zagreb and two adjacent counties, killing a 12-year-old girl and damaging over 26,000 buildings. On 29 December, a 6.2 earthquake struck Sisak-Moslavina County, killing seven people and demolishing over 30,000 buildings.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Quake-Affected Households Won't Pay Electricity, Heating Bills, TV Licence Fee

ZAGREB, 18 January, 2021 - The government on Monday decided to exempt households in Sisak-Moslavina County, hit by a devastating earthquake on 29 December, from paying electricity and heating bills for January, February and March as well as from paying the TV licence fee.

Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Tomislav Ćorić said that in January, February and March the state-owned HEP power company would not charge for electricity people whose houses were damaged by the quake and that it would also not charge them for connecting their temporary housing units and later reconnecting their rebuilt homes to the power grid.

As for people who use the services of a power supplier other than HEP, they will not be charged for distribution and transmission costs, said the minister.

The same measure will apply to households in the case of heating bills.

In a Twitter post after the government session, Ćorić said that he had called on other companies to join in the write-off of utility bills since a part of the households in the quake-hit area use their services.

Answering a reporter's question, he said that four companies provided power in Sisak-Moslavina County, including HEP, and that three operated in the quake-hit areas.

Quake-affected households exempt from paying TV licence fee 

The government also decided that in order to help alleviate the consequences of the 29 December earthquake, the HRT public broadcaster should not collect the TV licence fee from quake-hit households for the first three months of this year.

HRK 25m in emergency aid for repair of county and local roads

The government also decided to allocate HRK 25 million in emergency aid for the repair of county and local roads in Sisak-Moslavina County, and the amount will be secured by the HC road operator.

According to preliminary estimates, damage caused to state, county and local roads in Sisak-Moslavina County totals HRK 57 million, without VAT, said Sea, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Oleg Butković.

HRK 1.5 mn for fodder

Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković said that her ministry would allocate emergency aid in the amount of HRK 1.5 million for the purchase of fodder for the next 30 days in order to enable the continuation of animal husbandry in the quake-hit areas.

She said the biggest problem at present was the lack of concentrate and compound feed.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Magnitude 2.6 Tremor Recorded at Markuševec, Outside Zagreb

ZAGREB, 18 January, 2021 - A weak earthquake, measuring 2.6 on the Richter scale, was recorded just north-east of Zagreb early on Monday morning, the seismological service said.

The tremor was recorded at 3.49 am and its epicentre was near Markuševec, about eight kilometres northeast of the capital. The intensity at the epicentre was III degrees on the EMS scale.

A 5.5 earthquake rocked Zagreb on 22 March 2020, causing extensive property damage and killing a 12-year-old girl.

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