From: Exit Staff
The Albanian Earthquake- What’s the Situation Three Months Later

Three months ago on November 26, 2019, Albania was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake with an epicentre 30 kilometres from Tirana. The tremors damaged thousands of buildings and killed 51 people.

Exit News summarizes the major developments from November 26, 2019, to today, February 27, 2020.

The housing problem was not resolved

Over the course of three months, some 8,000 dwellings were declared uninhabitable by construction experts, while over 10,000 citizens took refuge in tents.

There was no solution in the villages as residents had nowhere to put their livestock and could not leave their property due to fear of looting. They were provided with tents and temporary homes mainly by organizations and civil society.

Since December 1, the government contracted 18 hotels to accommodate about 3,000 people – 14 hotels in Durres, others in Shengjin.

During this period, municipalities offered rent bonuses to about 12,000 families and most of those staying in hotels left. Many reported difficulties in finding properties in their areas, or that were affordable. Price increases of up to 30% were noted in Durres as landlords cashed in on increased demand.

In Durres, 10 hotels were vacated by the end of January, while in Shengjin the relocation took place in early February.

Reconstruction figures provided

In cooperation with the EU, UN and the World Bank, the government released the final report on the earthquake consequences. The damage was suffered in 11 municipalities and the most affected were Durres, Tirana, Kruja, Kavaja, Shijaku and Vora.

The bill was estimated to amount to around €985 million in damages – of which €310 million was in Durres and €303 million in Tirana. About 86% of the total damage suffered by private owners. (Click here to view the report).

The report estimates that reconstruction will require over €1 billion and that the post-earthquake situation may slow economic growth. By 2020, the government expects the economy to grow by 3.2% from the 3.5% forecast before the earthquake.

At the donor conference Together for Albania, EU countries and its partners pledged €1.15 billion in support of the reconstruction program. About 70% of the amount loaned, almost half came from Islamic countries, while Italy and Turkey provided the most assistance.

The reconstruction program remained unclear

At the end of January, the government introduced the Reconstruction Platform, an online space where citizens were required to apply within February to benefit homes. noted that, at least in the last week of February, the online platform only monitored government activities and did not inform about their procedures or processes. The government claims that by February 26, about 21,800 citizens had applied for the program.

As Exit News has analyzed, the rebuilding program goes hand in hand with the intention to open construction sites. The intention is hidden in the fact that the government bases the program on “forced development” practices with plans and “forced breakdowns”.

After the law on building control was amended, followed by a normative act and DCM, the government adopted 25 mandatory development zones in Tirana, Vora, Shijak, Durres, Kavaja, Kruja, Kurbin and Lezha. Development plans are expected to be approved by March.

In addition to the housing project, there were moves made for public buildings as well. The municipality of Tirana paid 415,000 euros to reassess 22 school buildings, social centres and dormitories.

It was decided that 13 schools would be rebuilt as some of the student dormitories and the Agricultural Institute collapsed. The municipality mixed the reconstruction project with plans for the new campus, creating suspicions about the presence of concessions.

Zero convictions for construction abuses

On December 14, the Durres Prosecutor’s Office issued 18 arrest warrants which led to the detention of 9 people. Among them is former Mayor of Rrashbull Hysen Gashi. The prosecution said the deaths of several people, residents of buildings collapsed after the November 26 earthquake in Durres, came as a result of construction in violation of the law.

Two months later the Durres Court dismissed the case for eight of them.

On January 15, the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office issued 40 arrest warrants, which led to the detention of 31 people. Among them are the two former mayors of Kashar and Farke. The prosecution said it had identified damage to 25 institutions, 134 buildings and over 100 private residences, with responsibility being on the accused. 

A few weeks later the Tirana Court acquitted 24 of them.

On January 30, the opposition nominated Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj, Kruja mayor Artur Bush, Education Minister Besa Shahinim, former Durres mayors Vangjush Dako and Valbona Sako to SPAK. The charges included negligent homicide, abuse of office, breach of equality in tenders and corruption.

Since that date, nothing has progressed regarding the complaints filed.