18:46 / 22.03.2023.

Author: Katja Miličić

Three years after the earthquake many homes are still awaiting reconstruction

Some of the most serious damage caused by the Zagreb earthquake in 2020

Some of the most serious damage caused by the Zagreb earthquake in 2020

Foto: HRT / HRT

Wednesday marked exactly three years since Zagreb residents were shaken from sleep by a 5.5-magnitude earthquake at 6:24 in the morning. 

The initial strike was followed by an 5.0 aftershock half an hour later. The quake took the life of a 15 year-old girl. It also caused a massive amount of damage to older buildings downtown, to homes along the fault line in Kašina, on the foothills of Medvednica.

"Today is the third anniversary of the Zagreb earthquake. Sadly, 15-year-old Ana Marija Carević was killed and we remember her today. Another 28 people were injured and around 25 thousand buildings were damaged," said Prime Minister Andrej Plenković at the beginning of today's cabinet session.

A fair amount of the damage has been fixed but the process has been painfully slow. The city is close to completing repairs on public buildings but private homes are a different story. With a new law regulating reconstruction, everyone is hoping this effort will gain some momentum. However, despite three ministers and many tweaks to the legislation, homeowners are still struggling to navigate government red tape.

"The law itself isn't bad, it's the implementation. It depends on a chain of participants in this process. It's like a mess of laws, rules, and institutions that are involved in the reconstruction of every building,” says Igor Kordić, a representative of the SOS Zagreb association, an advocacy group for quicker and better reconstruction.

Downtown residents frequently report chunks of exterior cladding falling off the sides of buildings, making it dangerous for pedestrians and parked cars. Many buildings also have sidewalk coverings or signs warning about the danger of falling debris.

The newest iteration of the reconstruction law includes a self-repair model that offers homeowners willing to manage their own rebuilding money up front. This applies only to cases where the structure of the building has been compromised and does not cover cosmetic repairs.

Back in 2021, the EU approved Croatia's Recovery and Resilience Plan which included nearly 800 million euros for energy efficiency and post-earthquake reconstruction in Zagreb and Banovina. Today, Croatia is nearing the deadline for spending that money.

Prime Minister Plenković said Wednesday that reconstruction was a long-term and demanding process.

"Activities related to the absorption of money from the Solidarity Fund are picking up speed. We are in a position to say with a fair amount of confidence that nearly all of the funds that have been allocated to us, 683 million euros for the Zagreb earthquake, will be spent according to plan,” he told his ministers.

Reconstruction Minister Branko Bačić is hoping that the speed of reconstruction of private homes will start to move more quickly with the new self-management model.

"We've kick-started the self-reconstruction model. The popularity of the model is reflected in the fact that of the 250 structural reconstruction projects, 120 are being done under this model,” Bačić said.

The government's head of reconstruction for the Banovina region, Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved, reported that projects valued at around 620 million euros were underway to rebuild and revitalize the region following the earthquake there, which occurred in late December of 2020.

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