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.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Croatia Earthquakes: Why, Where and When They Happen

January 19, 2021 – The relief effort is nationwide, international. Media pages are awash with the aftermath and repercussions. The devastating earthquake in Petrinja has created unforgettable images and changed lives forever. With the ground still shaking from sizeable aftershocks, we caught up with one of the country's leading geologists, working in the field near Petrinja, to as him why, where and when Croatia earthquakes happen?

“Once in 100 years”, they said, after the large earthquake hit Zagreb in March 2020. But, in late December, another. This time near Petrinja. Then, unbelievably, an even greater tremor - the biggest yet - on the following day. The aftershocks are considerable. They arrive after those from March's earthquake had only just begun to subside. It's a little wonder people can't sleep at night.

Stood on this shaky surface, our nerves on edge and with too many questions to ask, TCN tried to find some solid ground by turning to science. We spoke with one of the best-placed people in the country to tell us all about Croatia Earthquakes - why they happen, where they happen and when they will happen. We interviewed Josip Stipčević of the Geophysics Department, University of Zagreb, while he was on-site in Petrinja.

JosipStipevi.jpgJosip Stipčević and the Geology Department of the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb © University of Zagreb

My name is Josip Stipčević and I'm an assistant professor in the Department of Geophysics at the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. At our faculty, part of what we do is explore underground and undertake research using seismic waves. We record earthquakes. The geology department explores rocks.

Seismologists and geologists have instruments all around Croatia that record earthquakes. Immediately following the large earthquake near Petrinja, I joined geology colleagues in the near vicinity of the earthquake to look for surface ruptures, visible cracks on the surface. Because of the weather conditions and type of ground, it was important we go immediately because some of these expressions of the earthquake may be quickly lost.

The work we did will form the basis of a report that takes in geological and seismological findings. It's important to integrate these different sets of data with satellite and GPS measurements to learn as much as possible about the earthquake - why it happened, where it happened, what actually happened - how it progressed. You want to build up the most detailed and accurate account of the event. By doing this, it may give us a better understanding of what might take place in the future.

What we already knew was that this is an area where Croatia earthquakes happen. What we don't know is how often they happen or exactly why they happen - what are the forces that drive this build-up of strain in the earth's crust?

Croatian_Geological_Institute.jpgOutdoor educational board constructed by Professor Stipčević's colleagues from the Croatian Geological Institute © Croatian Geological Institute

There were quite a lot of us working in the area, over at least two different sites. It will take months more to analyze all of our findings. I was with a group from the University of Zagreb but there were colleagues from the Geology Institute also. A lot of us.

Croatia Earthquakes: Why do they happen?

Our Earth is a geologically alive planet. The Earth's core is hot. It is gradually cooling, over billions of years since it was formed. The heat must be released. There is convection taking place within the earth - a heat transfer. This is what drives the movement of the solid, outer layer of the earth which, using technical terms, we call the lithosphere. On the top of the lithosphere, there is a crust - like the outer layer of an onion. Here, the convection of the earth drives the movement of different tectonic plates that sit on the surface.

The_Lithosphere.pngThe Lithosphere, or 'Earth's crust' © KDS44

The surface of the Earth is broken up into several major parts. These are what we call the tectonic plates. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, except not all of the pieces fit so comfortably. These tectonic plates are moving because of the convection. They interact with each other. In some places, you have a divergence - where the plates are moving away from each other and new plates are forming. Then, you have plates where there is convergence - the plates are coming together. In those places, one plate is often going underneath the other or, like here - where we have two continental plates coming together, neither of which can sink beneath the other (because continental plates are more buoyant), we have an interaction where the plates collide. It is this collision that creates all of the mountain ranges in Europe - the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Dinaric Alps and so on. When the tectonic plates collide, there is an expression in the build-up of the energy. That is what an earthquake is.

tectonic_plates.pngThe major tectonic plates of the Earth in the present day © Public domain

The major plates in our region are the African plate and the Eurasian plate. They interact through the Mediterranean. But, it's not so simple. You also have small, fragmentary parts of the plate that are ‘stuck’ between these larger plates. One of these fragments, which is still attached to the African plate, is the Adriatic plate. It exists in the area of the Adriatic sea. Because of the movement of the Adriatic plate, you have material on both sides which is strained. This strain, or stress-energy, builds up in the crust and is released in Croatia earthquakes.

The_Adriatic_Plate.jpgThe Adriatic Plate © Public domain

It is this collision that has formed all of the mountains that exist all around the Adriatic - the Apennines, the Alps and the Dinaric Alps. It is also responsible for the range of volcanoes we find running down the west of Italy and the ones more towards the south of Italy, some of which are still active.

There are two kinds of tectonic plates - continental plates and oceanic plates. They are both different. The oceanic plates are thin and dense, very heavy. The continental plates are thick and more buoyant, less dense. It is so buoyant that it cannot sink back down into the mantle - the deeper parts of the Earth. But, the oceanic plates are dense enough to sink back into the mantle. When that happens, one expression is the formation of volcanoes.

The_volcanoes_of_Italy.jpgThe volcanoes of Italy, caused by the Adriatic Plate © Public domain

The Adriatic plate is partly oceanic and partly continental. Broadly speaking, the oceanic part of this plate is sinking beneath Italy, producing volcanoes. In Croatia, we mostly have the continental part of this plate. It cannot sink, so it instead collides and we have Croatia earthquakes. We had volcanoes here maybe 20 or 30 million years ago, but the part of the oceanic plate responsible for those was consumed. I'm speaking in very broads terms here - some of what you're asking me is really quite heavy stuff, ha! It's much more complex when you delve into it.

Croatia Earthquakes: What are the fault lines?

If you take a pencil between your hands and try to break it, the stress you create will find a point at which the pencil will break. The break in the pencil is like a fault line. It's a different kind of strain within the earth's crust, but the same principle applies. The force is absolutely ginormous and this action has been happening for billions of years, in our region alone it has been happening for many millions of years.

Because this has been taking place over such a long period of time and because the movement is still happening, some of the fault lines become inactive. Others are still active and new ones may even be created. In other parts of the world, these fault lines can run hundreds of kilometres long.

San_Andreas_Fault.jpgThe San Andreas Fault in California © John Wiley User: Jw4nvc - Santa Barbara, California

We don't really speak of 'active faults' because it's so hard to measure them. Some of them exist very deep in the earth. Some of them have surface expressions, but not all. So, it's not easy to say 'we have this many active faults here in Croatia'. You can say that in other parts of the world - everyone has heard of the San Andreas fault in California, it is a huge surface expression. Here in Croatia, the fault lines are smaller. The interaction is not so vigorous as in California, which is where the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate meet.

Croatia Earthquakes: Where do they happen?

Rather than active faults or fault lines, it is more accurate in Croatia to speak of active fault areas. We know which areas are tectonically active - where you may experience Croatia earthquakes. Those areas are southern Dalmatia, the Rijeka region, the Zagreb region and the Petrinja / Sisak region.

RTL_Television_depicted.jpgHow Croatia's RTL Television depicted Croatia's fault lines - or fault areas - in their graphic © screenshot

In Dubrovnik, you had one of the most major Croatia earthquakes of the last millennium during the 17th century. It was considerably larger than the one we just had in Petrinja. The whole city was devastated. Extensive damage. Dubrovnik and southern Dalmatia is the area that is most prone to larger Croatia earthquakes. I have just received a grant from the Croatian Science Foundation to explore just this. We are due to start in just a couple of months.

Dubrovnik_from_before_the_major_earthquake.jpgA painting of Dubrovnik from before the major earthquake of the 17th century © Public domain

From what we know, the areas of the country which experience the least seismic activity are Istria and some parts of Slavonia and Baranja. Other parts of Slavonia do have some seismic activity - there were famously earthquakes in the Dakovo area in 1884 and in a wider area of Slavonia in 1964. But these were only moderately strong. From what we know, Istria, Slavonia and Baranja are definitely the safest places where you will not experience a large earthquake. In Istria, you do not see any seismic activity at all. This is because Istria is the only part of Croatia which is on the Adriatic plate. All of the rest of Croatia is on the European plate.

Croatia_location_map.pngCroatia: the areas within red circles are presumed - for now - to be at extremely low risk of a major earthquake © NordNordWest, adapted

Each mountain you see in Croatia is essentially a fault area. That's where the ground somehow had to rise. It is only a question of when that fault line was active. It might have been millions of years ago and the mountain is merely evidence that this once happened, like with older mountain ranges such as the Appalachians in America or the Scandinavian mountains in Sweden and Norway. Or, it might still be happening, in younger mountains like the Alps, the Dinaric Alps and the Himalayas - the earth is active there, there is a collision, the mountains might still be growing. This is where geologists come into the picture. We look at the rocks and we can say when that interaction happened and if it is still happening.

The_Dinaric_Alps.jpgThe Dinaric Alps - a relatively young mountain range. They run down the entire length of the Croatian coast © Pavle Cikovac

It has been said that the fault lines on which the Zagreb earthquake of March occurred and the fault lines on which the Petrinja earthquake occurred are separate. Is it, therefore, correct to say that the Zagreb earthquake of March is unconnected to the Petrinja earthquake?

Basically, we would say yes. They are unconnected. The forces on the tectonic plate are acting on a large scale. The expression of these tectonic forces is different in different regions. From our measurements, we know that these fault systems - Zagreb and Petrinja - are not directly connected. They may be connected in some way, which is not straightforward to explain and not so immediate, but it is not like they are the same crack in the earth. They do not interact directly. The movement on one fault line cannot produce earthquakes on the other.

Petrinja__Croatian_Geological.jpgTop: the fault areas of Croatia. Bottom: The fault area around Petrinja © Croatian Geological Institute

There was an earthquake in Banja Luka. Is that earthquake connected to the one near Petrinja?

They had an earthquake there, yes and an even more devastating one in 1969. That activity does take place in the same fault area as the Petrinja earthquake, yes. But, the connection between the two is still not established. We can only speculate that the stresses and strains on one part of the area can produce earthquakes in another. It is possible that we may have a better answer to this once we have completed all the research we are currently doing. We may be able to say, yes, what happens in Banja Luka directly affects what happens here, or vice versa. You can already do this in other fault areas, such as the one which runs from Istanbul all the way to the east of Turkey.

1969_earthquake_in_Banja_Luka.jpgAftermath of the 1969 earthquake in Banja Luka © Public domain

Croatia Earthquakes: When do they happen?

We can only say what we know from the past and use some measurements that are available to us to guess the probability of Croatia earthquakes happening within a certain period of time. If you hear someone say “Yeah, I know when the earthquake is going to happen”, that’s the time you need to stop listening to that person. They obviously don't know what they are saying. No scientist would say that. What we know for sure is that we don’t know that. A broad estimate, using the data we have from history, is that the probability of a stronger earthquake happening here, something the magnitude of 6.5, is roughly 10% every 50 years. This means that such an earthquake does happen here, but only around once in every 500 years when using a scale of thousands of years.

movement_direction_of_the_earth_in_the_Petrinja.jpgThe fault area and movement direction of the earth in the Petrinja area © Croatian Geological Institute

The second earthquake in Petrinja was a large earthquake. The one the day before, and the Zagreb earthquake in March, were moderately large. Yes, it is unusual that we have experienced these three incidents in just one year, but it is certainly not unheard of. It is possible, like I say, that there is some connection that we don't yet know about between these fault lines. It's an area where research is ongoing and that requires more.

We have experienced three earthquakes in one year. Taking into account that the broad statistics say large earthquakes are predicted to happen within a certain frequency, are we now at a greater risk of another large earthquake happening or can we say that we are at a lesser risk because we have these three already behind us?

It is a difficult, difficult question. The stress was locked in a fault. Once that stress is released, you are much safer. But, if the stress is released in one fault, it may be that it increases the stress on another fault. So, it's hard to say. But, from what we currently know, we should now be safe. But (laughs), nobody can say with absolute certainty that there won't be another earthquake in this area for, say, another 10 years. The reassurance people needed by people who live in a seismically active region comes not from being told “don't be afraid of earthquakes, one will not come” but from constructing buildings that can cope with the earthquakes. But, I am a geologist, not a builder, so I cannot talk about that aspect.

This article was originally published on 8 January 2021

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.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Horvat: State Will Fully Finance Post-Quake Reconstruction in Assisted Areas

ZAGREB, 17 January, 2021 - The state will fully finance the reconstruction or construction of buildings in assisted areas affected by the earthquake, Construction Minister Darko Horvat said on Sunday, adding that whether citizens would cover 20% of the costs would depend on their income threshold.

Horvat told the press a bill on post-quake reconstruction said that Sisak-Moslavina County would co-finance 20% of those costs. If the county will not be able to pay that amount, the state will do so, he added.

As for buildings and houses that have been demolished and will not be reconstructed, the state will fully finance the construction of new ones, he said.

On Thursday, the government sent to parliament a bill of amendments to the law on the reconstruction of buildings in the City of Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje and Zagreb counties damaged in a March 2020 earthquake, proposing that the law also apply to Sisak-Moslavina and Karlovac counties, which were struck by a devastating quake in December.

Under the bill, those counties will set aside 20% in their budgets for reconstruction, as will property owners. In assisted areas where a state of disaster was declared, the entire cost will be covered by the state, in line with a special regulation.

A property owner is exempt from covering 20% of the reconstruction costs if their household income in the previous and the current year does not exceed the non-taxable income amount, if they had no other assets on 22 March 2020 whose value exceeded HRK 200,000, and if they receive welfare benefits.

Horvat said the bill was clear and that it included the income threshold, so pensioners and people out of work need not fear.

He said that in assisted areas where a state of disaster was declared, the government would fully cover the construction of new homes.

Everything in the bill also applies to the City of Sisak, Horvat said, commenting on Mayor Kristina Ikić Baniček's statement yesterday that "Sisak will be reconstructed under the same model as Zagreb" which, she added, her city could not afford.

Horvat said that under the bill, Sisak would not have to pay anything for the reconstruction, adding that 80% of the reconstruction amount had already been ensured without the city paying anything.

He said the residents of Sisak who had a second or third property outside the city "whose value exceeds certain amounts" would have to pay for 20% of any reconstruction costs.

"The government has not nor will it leave anyone in the lurch," Horvat said, adding that the state would fully cover a replacement home for all people whose homes have been demolished and which will not be livable.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

3.5 Magnitude Earthquake Jolts Petrinja

ZAGREB, 16 January, 2021 - A moderate earthquake, measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, jolted the Petrinja area of central Croatia at 10.59 am on Saturday, the country's seismological service said.

The epicentre of the tremor was 11 kilometres west of Petrinja, about 45 kilometres southeast of Zagreb. The intensity at the epicentre was IV-V degrees on the EMS scale.

The earthquake was also felt in Zagreb.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Croatia Earthquake Included on European Parliament Agenda

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - At its plenary session next week, the European Parliament will discuss aid to Croatia to alleviate the consequences of a devastating earthquake that struck the country, Croatian MEPs announced on Friday at an online press conference organised by the European Parliament Office in Zagreb.

MEPs Valter Flego, Predrag Fred Matić and Željana Zovko announced the agenda of the plenary session due to take place in Brussels from 18 to 21 January.

One of the topics on the agenda is the provision of relief to the areas of Croatia that were devastated by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck on 29 December.

The basic idea of the proposed resolution on the alleviation of the consequences, initiated by Valter Flego (IDS, Renew), is to draw attention to the fact that recovery from the earthquake will be a long process. The document will be put to a vote on Thursday.

The resolution will bring the Commission's attention to the importance of reducing and overcoming bureaucratic obstacles, monitoring the state of the public and private sectors, the need to revitalise the economy and provide maximum support for the reconstruction of the affected areas. It will also invite the Commission to ensure maximum support for the Croatian government in addressing the consequences of the earthquake, Flego said.

"I am pleased that on Thursday we will get a strong resolution representing the European Parliament's position on aid to Croatia," Flego said, thanking his colleagues for their cooperation.

Željana Zovko (HDZ, EPP) also said that the resolution was a sign of strong parliamentary support for Croatia.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Another Fairly Strong Earthquake Rocks Petrinja

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - The Croatian seismological service registered another fairly strong earthquake near the central town of Petrinja on Friday, measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale. 

Seismographs recorded the tremor at 13.01 hours about 17 kilometres west of Petrinja with a magnitude of 4.1 on the Richter scale. Its intensity at the epicentre was V degrees on the EMS scale.

A moderate tremor of 3.1 on the Richter scale was registered near Petrinja during the night as well, with the intensity at the epicentre of IV degrees on the EMS scale.

Since midnight, a total of eight tremors have been registered in the Petrinja area with magnitudes of between 2 to 3 on the Richter scale. Those were aftershocks.

Friday, 15 January 2021

No Reconstruction Possible Without Imported Workers, Says Daily

ZAGREB, 15 January, 2021 - Reconstruction in areas hit by the devastating earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County will not be possible without importing workers from Asia or Ukraine, the Večernji List daily said in an article on Friday, noting that contractors in Croatia are warning of a critical labour shortage. 

The construction sector is one of the few sectors in which the number of workers increased last year, by about 7,000 from the same period in 2019.

Currently there are about 124,000 workers in the construction sector, the third largest in the country, after the manufacturing industry and retail. However, all stakeholders in that sector say that manpower will be the main obstacle to reconstruction in the earthquake-hit areas.

Even prior to the latest earthquake companies in the sector had up to 5,000 vacancies that they could not fill even with workers from foreign markets. In 2020 contractors employed about 23,000 foreign workers while Mirjana Čagalj, the vice president of the construction sector in the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), expects they will all remain and that contractors will have to hire another 10,000 imported workers.

Recently channels were opened to hire workers from India and other Asian countries as well as Ukraine.

The Employment Service has decided to enhance its programme to hire the long-term unemployed for public works in Sisak-Moslavina County, its initial plan being to employ about 500 people. Should there be further interest or need, that number can be increased.

Workers in these jobs are earning a minimum wage which amounts to HRK 3,400 net a month, in addition to travel allowance. Social Democrat MP Davorko Vidović, who is from Sisak and has for years been working with the HGK on issues related to the labour market, is confident that that programme could provide a social component but that it will not resolve the problem of labour shortage in the construction sector, the daily says.

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