Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Damir Vandjelic: Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Going Too Slowly

June the 8th, 2021 - Damir Vandjelic, the director of the Reconstruction Fund, has spoken out about the length of time the reconstruction process following the earthquakes of 2020 is taking, adding that things need to be streamlined and sped up significantly.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Lepan Stefancic/VL writes, Damir Vandjelic openly stated recently that the reconstruction process after the 2020 earthquakes was proceeding much too slowly and that, when looking at how it began and the speed of those beginnings, he is struggling to believe that it will accelerate. Speaking on the matter for N1, he said that the demolition of three houses according to the requests for post-earthquake reconstruction is starting only this week.

"In order for excavators to come out to the streets, according to the Law on Reconstruction, people need to submit their respective requests to the ministry. The Ministry has 11,100 requests, of which 18 decisions came to the Fund, and a total of 155 acts came from the Ministry.

The difference between 155 and 18 is actually the documentation that we obtain in the administrative procedure for the ministry, meaning the gross area of ​​the buildings, the assessment of the construction and the like,'' he explained.

"On Friday, we signed three decisions on the selection of contractors, and next week the removal of three family houses in the epicentre of the March 2020 Zagreb earthquake, in the Markusevac area, should finally begin. Now there are only three, but 20 are reportedly in preparation,'' he added.

Damir Vandjelic made no bones about his feelings on things going at Croatia's infuriatingly typical snail's pace, and reiterated his position that the reconstruction is proceeding too slowly for Vecernji list.

"Yes, exactly. Over last three weeks we've been getting just two decisions a week. On 19,000 buildings, just two decisions, that just isn't very fast. The processing of peoples' requests needs to be sped up, and I'd even dare to suggest that the Law on Reconstruction should be improved in some segments.

Therefore, the processing of these requests must be done much more quickly, not just two decisions per week. It can be accelerated, here in the Fund we've shown that we can do about twenty procurements a day, so I think it would be alright for them to throw out about 50 decisions a week,'' Damir Vandjelic explained.

For more, follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Different Zagreb Earthquake Reconstruction Rules for New Property Owners

April the 19th, 2021 - There are different rules for those who are classed as new owners of property in the capital when it comes to Zagreb earthquake reconstruction, and if you fall into that category and decide to sell your apartment, you could be hit with quite significant costs.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, there are three conditions for co-financing post-earthquake reconstruction in Zagreb - ownership, residence and whether or not the property is the place you actually live in, which will be proven through neighbours and who bills are addressed to if necessary. According to the State Secretary at the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State, Zeljko Uhlir, those who meet those conditions are to participate in the Zagreb earthquake reconstruction costs of their own properties in the amount of 20 percent. For others, the amount is a significantly higher 50 percent.

The same goes for owners of different types of property: for the first ''section'' which has been mentioned above, they participate with 20 percent, for the others the participation amount stands at 50 percent, but if someone sold their apartment, then the new owner must participate with 50 percent of the renovation costs, and in the case that someone sells their renovated apartment, they will need to return the invested funds or the costs and those associated with it will be passed on to the new owner.

What, in turn, is the difference between Zagreb earthquake reconstruction done yourself and renovation done through the appropriate fund? Can co-owners who don't want that sort of reconstruction be forced to accept it, and how will all of this be affected by the lack of workers, engineers and the rise in price of construction materials? These are all very pressing questions which obviously demand clear answers.

Then there is the question of how non-detached buildings will be dealt with? There are also questions surrounding older owners who aren't accustomed to using the internet and the whole procedure might become too complicated for them to understand. In the framework of the dialogue that has been going on for a long time now, among experts on the topic of reconstruction of buildings after the earthquake, in addition to the above questions, there are a number of those to which representatives of the profession are still looking for answers.

However, as confirmed by a recently held presentation on the basics of Zagreb earthquake reconstruction for members of the Chamber Association of Property, what there is no doubt about is that the renovation process will affect the capital's real estate market in the long run.

It will significantly affect the markets, but mostly people's lives, and therefore it should be approached in an organised manner at all levels. That was the central message of Dubravko Ranilovic.

According to Uhlir, only in the Zagreb area will the rehabilitation of buildings cost as much as the construction of motorways. The primary goal, he claims, is to ensure mechanical resistance and stability with the aim of protecting human health and life, while the secondary point is the urban renewal of the City of Zagreb and its surroundings, and the regeneration of the overall area. Recalling the rule that the EU doesn't provide funds for private property - the owners, in fact, must take care of it themselves, according to him it is malicious to make accusations and lie blame with the owners of old buildings when it comes to maintenance as most were not designed or built to withstand seismic loads, and therefore their restoration is extremely a complex job in which the profession must play a major role.

On the other hand, co-owners can organise and finance the Zagreb earthquake renovation process which refer to their properties themselves, and then demand a refund of the justifiably spent funds, which means that in this case the process may go much more quickly and smoothly, but Uhlir warned that they must pay attention to all of the documentation and that everything goes according to the rules and can be looked back at.

"Of course, the problem lies with the harmonisation of the the position of the co-owners, but it's possible to act legally if there's indeed a threat to life at play. A completely new law in building management is coming soon,'' said Uhlir, adding that the law was made according to the best experiences to date, but unfortunately we still don't have a single contract with a designer, let alone a contractor, ie there are a very limited number of people who understand this sort of construction and who have real life experience in it,'' he added.

The good news that the Secretary of State also put forward is that the deadlines for submitting applications have been moved to the period from 2021 to 2025 so that everyone will be able to submit them, but in conclusion it is worth emphasising his appeal to all not to attempt to fix any earthquake damage yourself, but be sure to contact authorised professionals for your own safety and for that of the buildings.

For more, make sure to follow our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Croatian Reconstruction Fund Receives Renovation Decisions, Mostly for Zagreb

April the 13th, 2021 - The Croatian Reconstruction Fund has begun work, and the vast majority of decisions on renovations following the earthquakes which rocked the country in 2020 relate to the City of Zagreb.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, the plan for the implementation of the organised reconstruction following the earthquakes, including contracting designers, the preparation of documentation and reconstruction works has all been made available from this week. Given the amount of damage from the earthquakes which struck back in March and December 2020 totalling 127.6 billion kuna and the number of requests that are now open, things will take a very long time to complete.

The total costs of the Croatian Reconstruction Fund in the first three months of 2021 amounted to a staggering 182 million kuna, of which 95 percent was paid out in the form of compensation for damages caused by the devastating 2020 earthquakes. On the other hand, 6433 requests came from the most recently hit Sisak-Moslavina County, 1054 from Zagreb, 351 from Zagreb County, 74 from Krapina-Zagorje County and 5 from Karlovac County.

In the first quarter, the Croatian Reconstruction Fund received temporary solutions for three Zagreb buildings (six more have since been received over recent days), but they require technical and financial control.

It will be implemented by the Croatian Reconstruction Fund and the cases will be returned to the competent Ministry in order to reach their final solutions, but in order to finally act on them, the Croatian Government must adopt another programme of measures that will work to clearly define all of the procedures from building demolition to reconstruction.

What seems to be going quite quickly, according to the director of the Fund Damir Vandjelic, are the payments for emergency interventions, with the staffing of Vandjelic's closest team of associates and the organisation of key services.

The director of the Public Procurement Documentation Service is Sasa Miroslavic, who was the head of the public procurement sector at the Ministry of Health, while the director of the Independent Fraud Prevention Service, Davor Iljkcć, was in the Ministry of the Interior for sixteen years, also as a group leader in the Economic Crime Service.

Miroslavic is in charge of a transparent way of procurement management within the Croatian Reconstruction Fund. The first criminal report on the suspicion of a possible criminal offense of abuse during the emergency intervention, in the amount (unofficially) of 1.5 million kuna, however, has already been forwarded to the State Attorney's Office and will be looked into.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Government Increases Financial Aid for Croatian Earthquake Reconstruction

April the 3rd, 2021 - The government has increased the sum of financial aid intended for the Croatian earthquake reconstruction process. Here are the new amounts and procedure details.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the financial aid for the reconstruction/rehabilitation of non-structural elements on property damaged in the earthquake is now being increased from the previous 12,000 kuna to 16,000 kuna. This will regard family homes, residential and commercial buildings, apartment buildings and office buildings.

If such an application for these funds regards a family house without special parts needing other forms of more specialist attention, the increase is 25,000 kuna. In addition to chimneys, the term ''non-structural'' refers to elements of the property and the roof, gable walls, staircases and lifts.

The aforementioned Decision on providing financial assistance for Croatian earthquake reconstruction refers to the repair of property damaged by the earthquakes of 2020 in the areas of ​​the City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje County, Zagreb County, Karlovac County and Sisak-Moslavina County.

All of the funds related to the implementation of this Decision on the Croatian earthquake reconstruction process are provided by the Reconstruction Fund, and are to be paid out based on the decision of the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property.

The right to a refund

People who have already started to repair the damage to their properties caused by the earthquakes of 2020 on their own have the right to a refund in certain cases. In order to exercise the right to a refund, you must:

Hire a certified engineer to do the repair study
Hire a contractor
Hire a certified civil engineer, or a certified mechanical engineer (for boilers and gas installations)
Keep all of the original invoices
Include a complete application. This relates to Form/Obrazac 5 from the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property.

This must be submitted by the owner, co-owner, representative of the co-owner, or the manager of an apartment or business building.

The completed request must then submitted to the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property in Zagreb (Ulica Republike Austrije 20).

The delivery of the completed application can be done in different ways:

In person at the office
By mail
In the relocated offices of the competent Ministry:
Sisak: Ulica Ivana Kukuljevica Sakcinskog 1;
Petrinja: Trg Matice hrvatske 18;
Glina: Trg bana Josipa Jelacica 2;
Hrvatska Kostajnica: Ulica Vladimira Nazora 17;
Lekenik: Zagrebacka ulica 77A

By using the e-Renewal application in the e-Citizens (e-Gradjani) system.

The application deadline is December the 31st, 2021.

Applications for financing the lease of a replacement apartment are also being received.

On March the 12th, 2021, the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property published a Public Invitation for financing the rent/leasing costs for housing for persons whose property was damaged during the earthquake in the City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje, Zagreb, Karlovac and Sisak-Moslavina counties.

The public call/invitation and application forms for such requests are now available on the website of the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property.

For more, follow our politics section.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Tomašević Announces Reconstruction of Zagreb in Four Dimensions

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - A Zagreb Mayor hopeful, Tomislav Tomašević, warned on Monday on the first anniversary of the Zagreb quake that nothing had been done in the post-quake reconstruction and promised the rebuilding of the city in four dimensions if he won the 16 May local election.

"We have come to know that we do not have not one decision forwarded to the Reconstruction Fund nor has any action been taken," Tomašević told a press conference in front of the City Hall, which was organised by his We Can party and its partners: "Zagreb is Ours " and OraH parties.

He warned that the fund and Ministry of Construction are passing the buck regarding to whether decisions have been written or not and the problems they had outlined during the debate on the Reconstruction Act have now occurred.

He pushed for bringing together experts under the one roof so that good decisions can be made faster.

Tomašević said the current situation could be seen as an opportunity for reconstruction and also for earthquake-resistant development of the city in four dimensions including physical reconstruction which is aimed at increasing earthquake resilience and developing earthquake-proof infrastructure.

The plan is also to reconstruct public places which will give a social dimension to the historical centre of town and suburbs on the rim of Sljeme mountain that will include local construction companies in rebuilding projects and will increase energy efficiency and improve the quality of living as part of the fourth "green" dimension. 

MP Sandra Benčić added that the Reconstruction Fund had received money however it was not being used because blueprints had not been approved through a tender that was advertised.

They believe that the key mechanism to fund reconstruction is in the European ITU mechanism of integrated territorial management whereby structural funds are are managed by city agglomerations.

To read more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Plenković: Government Taking Steps to Provide €3.8bn for Post-Quake Reconstruction

ZAGREB, 22 March, 2021 - The government has taken steps to make sure that  €3.8 billion (HRK 28.5 billion) can be provided for reconstruction and revitalisation in the quake-affected areas, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underscored on Monday at the first Croatian conference on earthquake engineering - 1CroCEE.

The conference was organised by the  Faculty of Civil Engineering in Zagreb on the first anniversary of the 5.5-strong tremor that struck Zagreb and its environs on 22 March 2020.

Plenković recalled today the extent of the damage to Zagreb and its environs and then later to the Banovina region which was struck by the 6.2-strong quake on 29 December was truly enormous.

The damage is estimated at HRK 86 billion in Zagreb and its environs and HRK 41.6 billion in the Banovina area in Sisak-Moslavina County. The sum total of the quake damage is put thus at HRK 128 billion.

For that expensive and long process of the reconstruction to be implemented it is essential to secure the necessary funds, particularly from European and international sources, said Plenković.

The government has to date taken intensive activities at all levels for reconstruction and revitalisation of affected areas  so as to secure €3.8 billion or about HRK 28.5 billion, which is 22% of the funds required.

Of that amount, almost €1.4 billion is from European sources and €2.4 billion through international financing institutions.

The European funds include €684 million from the EU Solidarity Fund for Zagreb's reconstruction and almost €600 million is planned through the Recover and Resilience Mechanism, while €111 million will be reallocated from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Operational Programme from the existing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), he said.

In addition, we will endeavour to secure funds from the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework  which is currently being programmed and financing reconstruction will be treated as a specific item, said Plenković.

When it comes to international financing institutions, in addition to an already contracted loan of €184 million from the World Bank, talks will be conducted for an additional €1 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB), €900 million from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) and €300 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

An additional €319.2 million needs to be added to all that which Croatia requested from the European Solidarity Fund for the removal of damage caused by the earthquake in the Banovina region, he added.

Plenković added that constant talks were being held with a series of development and commercial banks to come up with solutions that will provide credit lines with favourable interest rates for individuals. That primarily refers to the 20% of the costs they need to cover reconstruction, to finance the difference between structural repairs and complete reconstruction, to finance the reconstruction of apartment buildings and also to fund the reconstruction of public buildings by the state.

"We are about to enter the phase of organised structural repairs and comprehensive reconstruction, not just in Zagreb but in neighbouring counties," said Plenković.

He underscored that reconstruction should boost a new large development cycle for Zagreb and neighbouring counties as well as trigger the revitalising of the Banovina region.

World Bank director for Croatia and Slovenia, Elisabetta Capannelli, said that the estimated quake damage was equal to reached 30% of Croatia's GDP.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Zagreb Earthquake Memories - Deafening Sounds and Cracking Walls

March the 22nd, 2021 - I didn't think I'd bother writing anything about the Zagreb earthquake which struck the city this time last year. It was what it was. What else is there to say? I thought in my typically emotionally reserved way. Zagreb earthquake memories are something that many people carry with them, probably in silence. I'm one of those silent people.

Such thoughts aside, as my friend and colleague Iva rightly said in her article, everyone living in Zagreb will have a memory of that horrible morning. It's always fascinating to me to think how much we as humans continue to live in total ignorance, believing that we are in constant and total control. If a global pandemic in which an organism one can't even see grinds the whole world to a halt wasn't enough to show us that isn't and will never, ever be true, a huge earthquake was a good additional reminder.

I was asleep at the time. It was early in the morning and the sound of Zagreb's trams and (often poorly maintained) tracks tend to cause somewhat loud noises. Living in the heart of Zagreb, one becomes used to loud noises, be they trams, rubbish trucks or indeed the odd car crash. The lockdown into which Croatia was plunged as the novel coronavirus found its way into the country rendered the Croatian capital unusually quiet, and the sounds to which I had become very accustomed had become somewhat less. It was pleasant.

Back then, before we had all become well and truly done with sometimes rather illogical anti-epidemic measures, horrible infection rate reports and intermittent lockdowns, that time was totally unprecedented and in some warped way, rather exciting. The then significantly quieter Zagreb was filled with other sounds, including birdsong as spring finally began to break through the harsh grip of a long, boring winter.

We didn't know back then what was to come throughout 2020 and those feelings and sense of naivity now feel so distant. But let's get back to the point - Zagreb earthquake memories.

I awoke to the sound of what I thought, in my half awake, half asleep state of consciousness, was a train heading at lightening speed towards my building. The sound was absolutely deafening, and I had never heard anything like it. It rattled towards my building, as if coming from a great distance, gaining momentum like a dangerous avalanche having formed from little more than a bit of harmless snow. It only took me a few seconds, maybe three at most, to realise that this was of course no train.

I looked up and saw the plaster on the walls of my apartment begin to crack, a long fault line appearing amid the calm creamy colour like something out of a film. Having grown up in Britain, a calm, favourably positioned country in regard to such natural events, I had only ever experienced two earthquakes, one I slept through and the other did little more than knock a lamp off my table. Traumatic indeed.

The deafening sound grew louder, and the crack got bigger, running along the wall as if dancing with the beat of that terrible sound. An earthquake. 

Car alarms began to sound and as I shot up out of bed as the building shook as if made from paper, people living on my street began running out of their buildings, out onto the streets as the police shouted at them for gathering together without masks during the pandemic dominated by a novel virus about which we knew very little back then.

You're not safe inside. You're not safe outside either. How on Earth has this happened? 2020 had barely begun and it was already looking Biblical. A plague, a disaster, were locusts and famine next on the list as a punishment? It sounds amusing now, but at the time, it was all so surreal it was difficult to know what to do or what to believe.

Worried faces filled the streets as the aftershocks rolled in and car alarms kept sounding as debris fell from Zagreb's shamefully neglected facades onto windshields, now cracked and coated with dust. The trams stopped. The police left. People returned indoors to inspect the damage to their homes and the birdsong suddenly became unpleasant. It was eerie.

As night fell, sleeping with that horrible sound in mind and the thoughts of the walls cracking so fresh and vivid wasn't easy. I'm not a particularly sensitive person, and I tend to let things roll off me, but that event was somehow so deeply disturbing that thoughts of packing an emergency exit bag and leaving it by the front door seemed appealing. Perhaps wrongly, I neglected to do that, and although some aftershocks did happen, such a move was thankfully not needed.

Zagreb's beautiful, iconic cathedral, apparently forever under some sort of construction, was damaged significantly. The very epicentre of the strong quake, just outside Zagreb, got little attention when compared to the heart of the city as politicians went out to the field to show their faces. The earthquake was a natural disaster which nobody could have predicted or indeed done a thing about even if they could, but it exposed some deep flaws about Zagreb's administration and the state of the city, as some parts of it are still dotted with rubble and warnings about potential falling debris one year later.

How the Zagreb earthquake memories, which every resident of this city has buried somewhere in the back of their minds, will reflect what will be done in the city's renovation process remains to be seen. With progress moving at Croatia's typically slow pace and astronomical figures being stated, it's difficult to imagine a Zagreb unscarred by this event, which I hope I'll never experience again.

For more on the Zagreb earthquake and Zagreb earthquake memories, check out our dedicated section.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

A Year After the Zagreb Earthquake and a Building in Petrinjska

March 21, 2021 - Every single person living in Zagreb can tell you their story of the potres of 2020. Here's mine, told through the lens of one building, on the corner of Đorđićeva and Petrinjska street.

Most people never want to live through a big earthquake. But, the thing you even more don't want to live through is an earthquake waking you up at 6:24, in your bed in a city of just under a million people, during the early days of a lockdown imposed because of the pandemic. Pandemic, mind you, of a brand new disease, one caused by the virus we know almost nothing about.

And that is exactly where we found ourselves on the morning of March 22nd, 2020. Now, that's not the first earthquake I've felt in my life, which was mostly spent in Zagreb. I remember one, back when I was a kid, sometime before the Homeland War of '91, when we all ran out to the streets as well. It wasn't nearly as bad as this one, but it was something I felt and remembered. Our region has seen much worse, with towns destroyed by the tectonic plates and their restlessness. But, the really big ones, we told ourselves, those happened in California or Japan!

The one that woke us up on the morning of March 22nd 2020 objectively wasn't a big one. I mean, it only took us 9 months to feel an even bigger one. But the one from March was scary because we were already scared. Scared of the virus, scared of the pandemic, scared of the reactions to the pandemic, scared of the unclear future. (As if the future is ever really clear)

Then, rapidly, one after another, many things happened: another earthquake half an hour later, we heard the news of one casualty, we saw that the top of the Zagreb Cathedral tower was gone, movement of people within Croatia was restricted and a symbol of the devastation of Zagreb became apparent. I don't know the order in which these events occurred; those days honestly feel like a blur now.

The building which turned into a symbol is not the one you'd expect, it's not the Cathedral. It's just an ordinary downtown building, located on the corner of Petrinjska and Đorđićeva streets. The only thing worth noticing about that building was the street art it had on its side. And, on March 22nd, what it looked like:

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The only casualty of the earthquake was a child who died in Đorđićeva street. The Croatian media has repeatedly told us that the tragic event did not happen in this building. The building and its street art and the open sides were a whole different story.

We went through a lot since, the people and the city. There was a lot of clean-up in the immediate aftermath, still worried about the pandemic taking off insanely with the people spending so much time in close proximity (it didn't); the top of the second tower of the Zagreb cathedral coming down, feeling good about how we handled the pandemic during the spring, the parliamentary elections, the tourist season, feeling extremely bad about how we handled the pandemic during the late summer and the autumn, and then the heart-breaking earthquakes in the Petrinja region in the final days of last year. (A not-so-fun fact: if you're wondering if Petrinjska Street in Zagreb is named after the same Petrinja which was destroyed in the earthquakes: yes, it is)

In early 2021, as we were approaching the first anniversary of the Zagreb earthquakes, I needed to go to the city centre, and by chance, going by this building up the Petrinjska Street was the route I took. It's not like I haven't been there before, since the quake, it's just that I thought... something has happened. And then I saw it and I literally gasped. I wasn't even composed enough to take a photo of it, but this photo is what the building and the corner it's on look like today: 

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Fenced off, traffic not allowed through Đorđićeva at all, pedestrians not allowed anywhere near, with pieces of brick and roof tiles scattered around the building - as if the earthquake was a couple of days ago, and not a year ago!

Surprisingly, although 2020 was among the longest years of our lives, sometimes it does feel like the earthquake only just happened. So much of the city is still damaged, and the pandemic is making it harder to even figure out what is destroyed, lost, needs to be fixed or replaced - as we're not going to the city centre as much as we used to. 2020 seemed to last forever, but it lasting forever hasn't helped my hometown heal. Maybe 2021 will bring a new breath of optimism to the streets (and lives) that still need a lot of help.

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Monday, 22 March 2021

VIDEO: Zagreb Earthquake 2020, One Year Later

March 22, 2021- On the Zagreb Earthquake 2020 first anniversary, TCN reporters Ivor Kruljac and Jose Alfonso Kusijanović took to Zagreb's streets to see how locals feel one year later. 

6:24 AM March 22, 2020. It was Sunday, but sleep was as light as it was a workday full of obligations. Zagreb's citizens were awakened by a horrible sound followed by walls shaking, the ground trembling and things falling all over the place. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, at the very end of the first week of the first lockdown where it was advised to stay indoors to prevent the spread of the virus, there was no choice but to rush out of the house, discombobulated and without a clue of what exactly is the damage that 5.5 magnitude earthquake did. Individuals, couples, and entire families were outside but at a distance from one another, and just after the first aftershock, it started to snow. If you didn't leave the very center of Zagreb, the first sign of damage was the cathedral, whose top of the left tower collapsed, and only later you started to see the images of the center, which many compared online to Beirut. The Covid-19 National Response Team expressed its condolences on TV but warning everyone to keep the distance due to corona. Emergency services rushed to the city, later followed by the army. People who lost their homes were taken to student dorms and other locations with free space in the following days. Sadly, a 15-year-old-girl was fatally injured during the earthquake and passed away at Klaićeva's Children Hospital.

One year later, citizens of Zagreb still have mixed feelings about the event. Here are their answers in our short interview.

 

Shaking the memory

Senior citizen Ljerka was walking around European Square. Her home survived the quake, and the aftermath was books that fell from a shelf and broken bottles and jars in her pantry.  She learned about that damage after a few days when she returned home from her sister's because she was too scared to be alone. The memory of last year still gives her the chills. „I jumped out of bed and lost my head; you have no idea where to go. You don't know what to do. I quickly grabbed something, half-dressed, rushed to the street. People were standing outside confused who didn't know where to go or what to do, nothing“, she said. Describing herself as an optimistic person, the scary experience is still stuck with her even one year later. „You remember it from time to time, but you can't forget it," said Ljerka.

A young guy named Dejan Jakovljević was casually walking around a crowded Dolac market, carefully with a mask to respect the measures in the crowds. He handled the earthquake pretty well as he lives in a new building with lots of concrete and reinforcement. 

„It woke me up, but I knew it was an earthquake. It didn't scare me. I just waited for it to be over“, said Dejan. Responding to how he feels about it one year later, he briefly acknowledged that he „honestly forgot about it. “

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

The same can't be said for American-born Stefanie Mikac from New York. We met her while she was walking her dog in Zrinjevac park. Her home was badly damaged. „I was in the bathroom dancing left and right. I didn't think it was an earthquake, I thought 'what is it, the devil had come!’ and there was smoke“, remembered Stefanie. When she realized it was an earthquake, she hid under the door, and when it passed, she searched for her dog that hid in the apartment before finally escaping her flat. On her trip to Hawaii, where earthquakes are quite frequent, she accepted that there is not much you can do against mother nature. Despite her bad experience, a year later, she feels safe in Zagreb. „Very secure, safe. You know, you have to take things as they come, “ said Stephanie sharing her positive attitude.

We spotted Mira Francem walking on Jelačić square. Her house was built following all the construction demands and proved to be earthquake-proof. Still, the rocky feeling isn't something that she liked. „I personally felt terrible. I had a feeling the whole world was collapsing, and in the end, that feeling of losing the ground under my feet is an instinct, you know?”, said Mira adding that even though her house is fine, the trembling ground was awful. When asked if there is still anxiety over the last year's event, she resoundingly repeated, “yes.”

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

Mladen Habuš was standing on Vlaška street that connects European Square with Kaptol, where the City's cathedral is located.

“My home was okay. The earthquake surprised everyone at first, but fortunately, they don't last, so you stabilize psychologically”, said Mladen calmly, as if it didn’t really leave an impression on him.

“I already forgot about it because it's not as frequent as in Glina or Petrinja, whereas they say, it shakes every five minutes,” he emphasized, and that the key is to remain relaxed. 

December – another round, another rumble

The second earthquake with a 6.4 magnitude that hit Petrinja and ravaged Banovina / Banija didn't damage Zagreb as it did to the southern part of central Croatia. Still, it was certainly felt, and many agreed it was stronger than the one in March.

„Jesus Christ! That one was even worse!“said Ljerka the second I mentioned the Petrinja earthquake. She learned that Zagreb is situated in a seismic active area, and earthquakes are something people in Zagreb need to learn to live with, but March didn't make her welcome the December tremble with more ease. She ran out of the house, not knowing what when her niece, who also lives in Zagreb, called her.

„I asked her if there was another earthquake in Zagreb. I didn't get anything. She said, 'no, that's the aftermath of Petrinja.' We are really close to Petrinja“, said Ljerka.

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Nikola Cutuk / PIXSELL

Stephanie was walking her dog during the Petrinja earthquake. She witnessed bricks falling and was relieved nobody was passing underneath at the time. However, when she returned home, she entered the mess, and the damages that were still not fixed from March intensified. „All the cracks are wider now, and everything will need to be taken down to get to the healthy wall,” said Stephanie.

When asked if the December quake was easier or the same to handle for her, she laughed, acknowledging that it was actually worse.  “We repeated the reactions from the first earthquake, you know? It's a very unpleasant feeling even today when a tram passes or something buzzes. I think something is trembling, and we are quite tense”, shared Mira. She said that no matter how rational you are, consequences as emotions are different from rationale.  “I'm really sorry for those people. My house isn't damaged, but I was scared and lost, and I can only imagine how those people felt. It's a huge catastrophe on which we cannot influence,” said Mira with empathy.

Dejan felt the December quake was stronger but feeling safe in his building; he wasn't too worried. “I instinctively rushed to save the TV. Everything else was irrelevant”, recalled Dejan with gentle laughter underneath his mask.

Despite Mladen being relaxed after Petrinja, anxiety crept up on him too. “You start listening; someone starts a car, you raise your head to see what's going on. You are expecting another earthquake”, said Mladen. Still, he added that “you get used to it.”  

 

Insurance vs. safe building

As revealed earlier this year, 85% of Croatian households don't have earthquake insurance.

Dejan doesn't know if the building had insurance but given his building proved safe, he didn't seem too concerned with that question.

Mira also didn't have insurance, but her investment in the safe building certainly paid off.

Stephanie's home was badly damaged, but she pays 1200 kuna annually for insurance and says it isn't too expensive in Croatia. However, regarding the walls in her home that need to be fixed, there was a bit of an issue. „The insurance company actually secured only the furniture, but then through a lawyer, we made a deal to cover half of it. Something is better than nothing“, said Stephanie.

Ljerka complemented her landlord and how she manages things. Her building received a green sticker but chimneys needed to be removed. Insurance helped there a lot. „We took down the chimney ourselves, and we got the money back, I think 3000 kuna, “ said Ljerka. The roof was renewed a year or two ago, but the same couldn't be said about the terrace residents have in the back of the building. Insurance didn't want to cover it, and a loan was needed to be taken for the fixture.

City officials to the rescue! Or not?

Both the country and international community, not to mention companies and individuals, rushed to help Zagreb, and the now-deceased mayor Milan Bandić found himself challenged to return Zagreb to its old glory and shine as fast as possible. The situation even called for a Zagreb reconstruction bill on the parliament level as the government took the lead in rebuilding the city. In the meantime, Bandić passed away, and with local elections coming up, the city's repair remains a topic for all the candidates that hope to take the lead chair of city politics in May.

Regarding the response of the city officials, Ljerka isn't happy.

„What did the city do? Nothing. It was all ruins. Look at what Zagreb looks like now after the earthquake. How long has passed, and nothing is done. Nothing. Only the houses that people renovated themselves, but the city gave nothing”, commented Ljerka. She did, however, add that the city doesn’t have money and that she understands that.

Mira shares Ljerka's opinion that the situation is better for those who organized repairs privately. Still, when it comes to the city authority response, she says, „it should have gone faster, better, and more organized. “

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Borna Filic / PIXSELL

„I see a lot of my friends who live in the center. It's all at a standstill. For those who engaged themselves privately, it is better, but otherwise, it is prolonged. It needs to be better, more active, more engaged to ease the people and make them stronger."

Dejan also thinks that the authorities' response was not good and that “they should help people.“

When asked to comment on the city's response to the earthquake damage, Stephanie was hesitant at first. She feared many people would disagree with her opinion and her different way of thinking because she lived in the US.

“Over there, we have asbestos insurance and insurance for everything. If you have a bank loan and the bank has input on the house, you have to have insurance”, explained Stephanie asking me if it is fair for her to pay the insurance while others don’t and later demand the city to pay for everything. “Imagine if the city would fix apartments for everyone and secure the buildings. Nobody would ever do that anywhere. They may give you a percentage, but that's it,” concludes Stephanie.  

Mladen is happy with the city's response.

“I think the city, to my knowledge and how much I followed, was the only one that jumped to help those who lost their homes and put them in free spaces,” Mladen pointed out. He also reminds us that the government took over the rebuild and the city is involved with 20%. When asked if it’s good for Zagreb that the government took the lead over the city, a resounding yes was the final answer. “The city doesn't have enough money, so the government needs to jump in," concluded Mladen.  

Steady ground wishes above all

Being the biggest and the capital city of Croatia, which attracts people from everywhere in the country and beyond, Zagreb streets offered truly diverse answers to Jose and me. There was more or less fright on March 22, 2020, and different levels of anxiety today. Different views on insurance and the city’s response. We can only guess how differently they will vote in May. But one wish is the constant for the Purger's hearth - the wish to see Zagreb as a safe city where you only get awakened by an alarm clock.   

 For more about the earthquake in Zagreb, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Earthquake Damage Estimated at €5.5 Billion

ZAGREB, 18 March, 2021 - The damage caused by a string of earthquakes that struck central Croatia in December 2020 has been estimated at €5.5 billion, based on which Croatia will apply for €319.19 million from the European Union's Solidarity Fund, the government said at its meeting on Thursday.

The direct damage caused by the earthquakes was estimated, in accordance with EU rules and the methodology used by the World Bank, at HRK 41.6 billion or €5.5 billion, which is 10.2% of the country's gross national income, the Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets, Darko Horvat, reported.

EU member states are entitled to aid from the European Solidarity Fund if total direct damage caused by a major natural disaster exceeds 0.6% of the country’s gross national income.

Horvat said that this included the damage done in Sisak-Moslavina County, Karlovac County and Zagreb County, subsequent damage in the City of Zagreb and Krapina-Zagorje County, as well as damage done to individual properties in Bjelovar-Bilogora County, Virovitica-Podravina County, Požega-Slavonia County, Osijek-Baranja County, Međimurje County, Varaždin County and Koprivnica-Križevci County.

Based on this damage assessment, Croatia can apply for a contribution of €319.19 million from the European Solidarity Fund and will do so, said the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds, Nataša Tramišak.

Emergency measures that qualify for EU funding include restoration of infrastructure and plants in the energy sector, water supply, waste-water management, telecommunications, transport, healthcare and education, provision of temporary accommodation, rescue services, cultural heritage protection, and clean-up operations.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that he had discussed this matter with relevant EU authorities last week and announced that this week Croatia would apply for funding from the Solidarity Fund.

"I am confident that this time too, just as was the case with initial damage from the earthquakes, we will receive strong support from this European fund," the prime minister said.

For more about earthquakes in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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