Zagreb marks third anniversary of 5.5 magnitude quake

NEWS 22.03.202311:32
Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL

Three years ago today, the Croatian capital and its surroundings were woken up at 06:24 am by a 5.5 magnitude earthquake that claimed one life, injured 27 people and damaged 25,000 buildings, including public institutions, family homes, schools, churches, and hospitals.

In the early morning of March 22, 2020, a 15-year-old girl suffered life-threatening injuries in downtown Zagreb of which she later died. Another 27 people were hurt.

The damage was estimated at €11.5 billion.

The tremor was followed by another one measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, and by the end of 2021, approximately 3,200 aftershocks were registered in the area.

The strongest earthquake registered in the City of Zagreb in the past 140 years also caused havoc to the nearby counties. To make things worse, it all happened at the start of the lockdown imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Croatia.

Footage showing newborn babies and their mothers being evacuated from the Petrova Street Hospital, the destroyed north spire of the cathedral, and cars under the rubble in the streets became symbols of the suffering caused by the quake.

Emergency services provided a rapid response, and during the removal of the rubble and demolition of the damaged buildings, it turned out that the damage was greater than initially anticipated.

Later that year, on December 29 2020, an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale struck the City of Petrinja ad Sisak-Moslavina County, and that tremor, which was also felt in Zagreb, again made the residents of central and northern Croatia more fearful of what earthquakes can do.

Six months after the Zagreb quake, the first law on post-quake reconstruction was passed. In the meantime, it has been amended several times, and there have also been a few changes in the relevant ministerial post.

The current construction minister Branko Bacic, who took office on 17 January this year, sponsored the new law on reconstruction, designed to streamline the process of post-quake rebuilding.

On Tuesday, that is on the eve of the third anniversary of the Zagreb earthquake, Bacic admitted that the authorities did not “pass the test” in building replacement family homes, and announced progress by the end of this year, when he expects works on about a hundred houses.

“As for the construction of replacement family homes, that is the worst part of the reconstruction after the Zagreb earthquake. The fact is that we did not pass the test on the replacement houses,” Bacic told a press conference in Zagreb.

Not a single replacement house has been built yet, and 247 applications for construction have been submitted. Among them, public procurement is underway for 21 houses, while 184 contracts have been signed for designing houses, he said.

Construction of 21 houses to begin in early May

By the end of this year, the minister has announced significant progress in this segment of reconstruction.

“The plan for this year is to finish all the designs for the construction of replacement family homes. At the beginning of May, we will start building 21 houses, and by the end of the year we will have works on 100 houses”.

Bacic also said that the most important goal by mid-2023 is to tap €1.003 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund for reconstruction projects.

He hopes to spend the €1.003 billion by the end of June, which would be 100% use of the funds granted to Croatia through the ESF, €683 million of which for reconstruction in and around Zagreb and €319 million for the Petrinja area.