From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Cracks Appearing in Recovery Efforts from Albanian Earthquake

Two weeks since the devastating earthquake that claimed 51 lives, the situation on the ground in Albania is as catastrophic as it was on the 26 November.

Exit visited a number of affected villages including Thumane, Mamuras, Fushe Mamuras, Bubq and Vlashaj and found that many families had not received any assistance from the state in the form of accommodation, aid, supplies, or even visits from engineers.

In Fushe Mamuras, one woman told Exit that her two-story home had been damaged on the 26th but on the 28th, the Municipality told her it was safe for her and her five children to remain inside.

Then on 8 December after a 4.5 magnitude aftershock that occurred shortly after midnight, several walls in the bedrooms of her house collapsed and parts of the ceiling fell down.

She escaped with her family, including her six year old son who sustained injuries to his leg. They are now staying in a one-room out-house where eight people are sleeping, washing, cooking and eating.

The Municipality did not supply them with any aid or assistance and the army only appeared to set up a tent for her family, 20 minutes after Exit arrived at her home. They live on an income of 200 EUR a month and have no means to rebuild their property.

Another family in the area told Exit that they have not been visited by an engineer, or the Municipality and have not received any aid. Lindita said that she and her husband visited the Municipality to ask for help and were told that because they were supporters of the Democratic Party they would not receive a thing.

Lindita sleeps in her home each night despite the fact that the ceiling is caving in, whilst her two sons sleep on a sofa covered by a plastic sheet in the garden.

“I would die to make sure they are safe. I don’t care about myself, just my sons,” she said.

One man who wished to remain anonymous told Exit that for the eight people in his family, the Municipality provided them with just one four-person tent and have not given them any supplies or other assistance.

“We are not powerful or influential people, this is why they don’t help us. They only help those who can help them, this is the case here.”

When asked why he thinks the state are not helping people nearby, he simply stated ‘they are keeping it for themselves, that’s all.”

Exit also observed significant damage at the local school in Fushe Mamuras, but noted that children were still attending lessons despite the debris.

None of the families Exit spoke to in the Mamuras area had received any assistance from the state, despite the Municipality store of supplies and aid being full. 

In the village of Vlashaj not far from Tirana, some 25 families are homeless. While government engineers have been here to check their property twice, not a single tent or provision of food or blankets has been given to them. Exit observed a number of families sleeping in tents that have been donated by local NGOs and one family of six sleeping in the back of a van. A local church charity is providing food for them once a day and assisting with blankets and other supplies.

One man who showed Exit around his home explained how they have not been offered any assistance whatsoever. He is now working to convert a stable into a room where he and his wife will sleep.

Exit asked a volunteer about what the state has offered to provide the people of Vlashaj and she laughed, saying “they don’t care, they have ignored these people completely.”

In Thumane, Exit observed one family picking through the remains of their home which collapsed completely on the 26 November. Mirushe explained how she was awake with her infant child when the earthquake hit and managed to escape with her whole family before the whole block collapsed moments later. 

She told Exit that the Municipality told her that her home was unsafe after the 5.4 earthquake in September but they didn’t order her to leave or give her any other option. Living on EUR 70 a month, she had no choice but to stay in her home with her three small children.

In Durres, the Municipality deposit for aid is full across two floors, yet those that Exit spoke to in the area are yet to receive anything.

Two civilians delivering boxes and bags of aid collected by parents at the school they work at explained to Exit how they pulled up in a car outside of the high school near the Municipality in Durres. 

“You could see the high school is FULL of aid- from floor to ceiling over two floors,” they told Exit. “It is all just sitting there, everything you could think of, I don’t understand!” This was confirmed separately by volunteers for an international NGO who said that the state-run deposit in Durres is at capacity, yet people in surrounding villages are still being supported by civil society efforts.

Exit spoke to around 12 families in several villages as well as volunteers from local and foreign NGOs. All reported that the State has failed to provide much needed aid such as food, tents, and other supplies. After millions has been donated to the government and state aid deposits remain full, the question is, why are these people left without and depending on the kindness of volunteers and civil society?