18:38 / 29.12.2021.

Author: Katja Miličić

Little progress on rebuilding in Banovina a year after the quake

The PM is met with boos and whistling from protesters in Petrinja

The PM is met with boos and whistling from protesters in Petrinja

Foto: Robert Anic / PIXSELL

In the year since the earthquake in Banovina, little progress has been made on reconstruction, frustrating many local residents who are still living in temporary housing.

The devastating earthquake struck Croatia's Banovina region on December 29, 2021. The 6.2-magnitude quake took the lives of eight people and left thousands without homes. The government pledged to help rebuild everything that was lost but a year in, the process is moving at an extremely slow pace. People are still living in containers outfitted to serve as temporary homes. Local residents are frustrated, disappointed, and angry.

When Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and other government officials arrived in Petrinja on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the quake and to announce another government program that aims to revitalize the region, they were met with boos and whistling from protesters who chanted: "We want reconstruction!”

Marta Kalfić is one of a group of activists who came out to protest the government's slow response.

"This is not a ghost town. We live here and we love our town. It's been 365 days and they have done nothing and we've been listening to lies and false promises," she said, venting her frustration.

Prime Minister Plenković said was aware that the earthquake has had a huge impact on people's lives in Banovina.

"Of course some people are unhappy and they are expressing themselves by protesting, whistling, throwing snowballs. This is part of our job and I respect them and hear their message,” Plenković said.

During a meeting with officials managing the response to the earthquake, the Prime Minister said more could have been done better and quicker. Asked what he would have liked to have seen today, he answered: a faster pace to the whole process.

"I would like to see more buildings finished, 100 replacement homes completed and 20 apartment buildings,” he said.

Veteran's Minister Tomo Medved, the man in charge of the earthquake reconstruction process, said he hoped the pace would pick up soon.

"The goal is to intensify the pace of reconstruction and to hire a large number of construction firms for the job. I encourage Croatian firms to respond to our call," he said.

Prime Minister Plenković pledged the government would fulfill all its promises and said the strategy had been to start with smaller repair jobs and gradually move on to the large projects. Major construction would start in 2022, he said, adding that the government would adopt a 15 billion kuna development plan for the region on Thursday.

President Zoran Milanović also visited the quake-stricken area Wednesday. After speaking with local residents in and around Sisak, he said he did notice that the state-owned power company HEP had done a lot of work on fixing the power grid. He also said that overall, the money that has been spent could have been applied more effectively.

"It is all about organization. Tomo Medved is spending his days here and putting his reputation on the line but he has little influence because he does not make the key decisions,” Milanović said.

The President said he had revisited some families and not much had changed since he saw them last.

“They are dependent on donations. There is no excuse for that. A year later, no work has been done on these homes,” said Milanović.

The President’s main complaint is that the cumbersome administrative process related to reconstruction was eating up an enormous amount of time. He cited the example of a man in Majske Poljane who has donors lined up to finance the rebuilding of his home but he cannot get started because of the paperwork is all tied up in various stages of approval.

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