Between June and September Albania experienced two powerful earthquakes in the south east and central part of the country
The south-east of Albania was hit by many earthquakes at the beginning of June 2019. The deepest tremor recorded a 5.3 Richter magnitude. Its epicentre was in the Korca municipality, where Caritas Albania delivers support to migrants coming from Greece who try to cross the border there.
The region is not new to this phenomenon, although the most recent episode to the same extent dates back to 1960. Overall, three districts were affected by the earthquakes: Korca, Pogradec and Kolonja. The population of the three rural villages of Floq, Mollas and Nikolic was the most severely affected.
The episode was not reported in international media and only barely mentioned in national media. This might be due to the fact that, luckily, no lives were lost. The recurrence of natural disasters in this area might also have influenced the decision not to report about it.
Hundreds of damaged houses were abandoned by their inhabitants. As a consequence, an emergency committee was set up by the civil protection and the head of district of Korca.
On 3 June, already three tent camps were up: one in Floq with the capacity to host 390 people, another in Qafezeze for up to 160 people and a small one in Vidove for 100 persons maximum.
Caritas Albania has been on site since the third day of tremors. Once the situation started to calm down, and in coordination with the local authorities and the civil protection department, Caritas Albania undertook a comprehensive needs assessment. The affected population was consulted at all stages.
The Caritas Albania emergency board and the Diocese of South Albania planned for a two-phase intervention: rapid support and reconstruction phase.
Thanks to the support of an external foundation, Caritas Albania has been able to help from the onset of the crisis families and individuals hosted in the tent camps, in the public school and in the parish. This help has consisted of food distribution and the distribution of hygiene products for personal and family care, as well as of actions aimed to grant a dignified access to the accommodation facilities.
Neighbouring communities, who have been donating bedding materials, have also shown solidarity to the displaced families.
The main goal of Caritas Albania’s response is to create the conditions for the most vulnerable families affected by the earthquakes to return to their normal lives in a dignified way.
This phase has three main components: rehabilitation of damaged houses, provision of household equipment and capacity building. Affected families are at the core of the response and they are encouraged to take part in its planning and implementation.
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New Developments: September 2019
Second major Earthquake in four months hits Albania on 21 September followed by heavy rainfall and flooding.
On 21 September, shortly before 4pm, the Western seaboard of Albania experienced an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale. The epicenter of the shock was a few kilometres off the coast near the town of Durres. Shortly after, there was an aftershock of 5.3 LM. Since the main earthquake, several tremors have been felt with seismologists warning aftershocks could continue for several days. There has been extensive damage to houses, and infrastructure in the districts of Durres, Tirana, Elbasan, Berat, Diber, Fier, Lezha, and Vlora.
Panic among citizens is a cause for concern among first responders and the government is trying to ensure people receive correct information to avoid excessive alarm. Thankfully, no loss of life has been reported but the trauma of the earthquakes has had a negative impact on many people, especially children.
Heavy rainfall on the 23 September caused flooding in the cities of Tirana, Lezha and Elbasan. This has, of course, aggravated the situation which was already difficult following the earthquakes.
Caritas Albania is in continued contact with central and local authorities regarding the situation and is assisting local parishes to help families get access to essential items and materials.
Update 6 July 2019
Thanks to the immediate support by external stakeholders and to the solidarity shown by the neighbouring villages, a sufficient amount of food and non-food items (NFI) has been distributed to the affected population in the three villages.
However, the political situation in the country is rather instable. Local authorities and the government Commission for the evaluation of damages completed their assessment for reconstruction. Their decision is to invest in the reconstruction of fully damaged houses only. This does not satisfy the people affected, who do not feel listened to nor involved in decision-making. They consider the criteria for selecting people to support and interventions to prioritise unclear. The government does not foresee any support for repairing partially damaged houses.
Hence, people continue to be accommodated in public schools as well as in tents in gardens.
Caritas Albania considers the rehabilitation phase very important for supporting the people affected and for showcasing to the public institutions Caritas’ approach in case of emergencies: assessment, involvement of communities in all phases of the project, and networking and coordination with all stakeholders in the territory.
Caritas Albania intends to profile itself as an efficient and reliable partner for local institutions, showing that a participatory methodology would lead to a win-win and more sustainable result. In addition, Caritas Albania would like to provide financial and technical support to those families whose houses have been partially damaged.
Caritas Albania has been fully investing in institutional advocacy in order to establish a structured relationship with government and strengthen the organisation’s own sustainability.
Update 13 June 2019
Between 6-12 June, Caritas Albania conducted an assessment divided into three main moments:
Data gathering from the official reports received by the national coordinator and issued by the civil protection office. Caritas Albania also undertook efforts to explore media coverage;
Data gathering led by the local Caritas operator in the village of Vidohov;
Data gathering by an ad hoc team and led by the national coordinator in the Korca district.
Three accommodation facilities were added to the three camps already set up:
Dormitory in Korca high school;
Public school in Floq;
Public school in Qafezeze.
Small tents were distributed to those families who decided to stay next to their damaged houses.
Three families with specific vulnerabilities have been hosted in Vidohova parish.
Cooking facilities and daily food supply have been provided for people accommodated in camps and schools.
Finally, the civil protection commission has finalised its assessment of damages and confirmed that there is a total of 121 houses completely destroyed and 196 severely damaged.
The national team and local operators have been observing the situation. They have carried out different interviews with the head of district and the person in charge of accommodation in the public school. Focus group discussions were also organised both in Vidohov with people living in the camp and in the public school in Floq.
Two categories of needs were identified after the needs assessment was completed:
Repairing of damaged houses;
Reconstruction of destroyed houses;
Provision of household equipment and furniture.
Food and cooking facilities;
Cleaning and hygiene materials;
Update 5 June 2019
The team of Caritas Albania went on site and received detailed information from the authorities. Also, they managed to meet and speak with the families affected.
Today, the estimate is that around 3,000 people have been directly affected by the earthquakes.
Overall, 184 families have been evacuated: 230 persons are now accommodated in tents, 50 persons are hosted by relatives and 20 people are staying in the parish facilities.
In coordination with public structures, it is agreed that the most urgent needs are on:
Food and hygiene items for families in the camps and in the parish;