2019 Albania earthquake | aftermath


A national day of mourning was declared in Albania and neighbouring Kosovo where two of the victims were from and which has an ethnic Albanian majority population.[74][75][48] In North Macedonia, the Albanian majority municipalities of Tetovo, Struga and Čair held days of mourning for the earthquake victims.[76][77] Albanian Independence Day celebrations, held annually on 28 November were cancelled in Albania,[78][49] Kosovo[79] and in majority Albanian municipalities of North Macedonia[76] and Montenegro.[80]

Albanian and EU officials giving a press conference

In Albania, volunteers, along with some small organisations established drop off points for donations of food, clothing, blankets and hygiene products at prominent landmarks throughout Tirana and used social media to mobilise people to provide assistance.[54][13] Three humanitarian organisations sorted and packed the items and sent them through several truckloads for distribution among displaced people of the earthquake zone.[54] As demand was high, citizens were urged to donate over coming days.[54][51] Hundreds of Albanians in Albania and Kosovo opened their homes to people displaced by the earthquake.[81][49][62] Some students from Tirana went to assist relief efforts in Durrës and delivered hundreds of meals to earthquake affected people.[49] Residents of Tirana held a candle light vigil in the city centre in honour of the deceased.[49]

The Albanian state initiated an online fundraising campaign for donations,[81][54] raising 156 million leks, €1,600,000 and $25,000.[82] The Socialist party in parliament and members of the Albanian government along with 60 mayors donated their November salary to the aid effort.[83] In Albania, the Muslim Community of Albania organised nationwide fundraising for monetary, food and material supplies and opened its mosques and madrasas as a place of shelter for earthquake victims.[84] The Orthodox Church of Albania under Archbishop Anastasios opened the local monasteries and churches to people displaced by the earthquake.[85] The Catholic Church in Albania held mass in its churches on 27 and 28 November for earthquake victims and coordinated its relief efforts through local branches of the Catholic charity Caritas.[86] Football fan groups such as "Kuq e Zi" of the Albanian national team set up an emergency fund and sent volunteers from throughout the country to assist in relief operations.[87][88] Fan groups from local teams such as "Tirona Fanatics" KF Tirana, "Guerrils" FK Partizani Tirana, KF Vllaznia Shkodër and players from clubs such as FK Kukësi sent food and clothing supplies and expressed solidarity with victims during matches following the first weekend after the earthquake.[88][89][90][91]

The Albanian government established a monetary compensation scheme that would give families of deceased people scholarships to children, pensions for the elderly and 1 million lek ($9,000) for a family.[10] Prime Minister Rama said that the state budget was being reconfigured to manage the situation following the earthquake.[62] Rama stated that the draft budget of 2020 would provide frunds for the construction of homes and cost some 7 billion leke ($63.10 million) or 0.4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).[70] The exact final amount is unknown and apart from the aim of getting displaced people into homes, Rama wants reconstructrion to expand economic growth, jobs and consuption.[70] Apart from costs and planned projects already factored in, the government committed itself to no new budgetary expenditure except for irrigation, so as to accumulate funds for reconstruction.[70] Rama has called for additional expert assistance and monetary aid geared toward recovery from the international community stating that Albania lacks the capacity "to do this [reconstruction] alone."[92][62][4] By mid December, 13 billion leks ($171 million) were allocated for future reconstruction by the Albanian government.[57]

In Albania, a large proportion of the earthquake damage has been blamed on corruption, violations of the building code and substandard construction following the demise of communism during the early 1990s.[10][69][4] The Albanian state has drafted a law in the aftermath of the earthquake that would see investors, supervisors and architects go to prison for a period of 7–15 years if proper construction practices are violated.[10][69] Albanian prosecutors have begun proceedings to investigate violations of regulations and illegal building within the construction industry.[4][93] On 14 December, Albanian prosecutors and police detained nine people on charges of murder and abuse of power, including two owners of collapsed hotels.[1][94] A further eight individuals are being sought who are also suspected of failing to follow safety regulations.[1][94] In mid December, Prime Minister Rama was criticised by NGOs, human rights organisations and parts of the media of misusing the situation to pass controversial legislation after he sought a three-month extension for his state of emergency powers from parliament.[52] A new government portfolio was established and on 20 December, Arben Ahmetaj became the Minister of State for Reconstruction to oversee the rebuilding process.[95]

In Kosovo, its ethnic Albanian population reacted to the earthquake in Albania with sentiments of solidarity, moved in part by memories of solidarity and sanctuary the Albanians of Albania provided them when they fled ethnic cleansing by Serb forces during the 1999 Kosovo war.[93][61] Kosovo Albanians undertook fundraising initiatives and appeals, collected money, food, clothing and shelter donations.[96][61] In Pristina, volunteers established a drop off point in the central square for donations of supplies and several truckloads were sent to displaced people affected by the earthquake.[54][61] Volunteers and humanitarian aid in trucks, buses and hundreds of cars from Kosovo traveled to Albania to assist in the situation and people were involved in tasks such as the operation of mobile kitchens and gathering financial aid.[96][49][62] Kosovo Albanian school children donated clothes, food, and books.[96] By 29 November, more than 100 tons of supplies donated by Kosovo businesses and civilians reached Albania.[49][61] Candle light vigils were held in parts of Kosovo in honour of the deceased.[97][98][61] Various football fan groups and their clubs such as "Skifterat" SC Gjilani, "Plisat" FC Prishtina, "Stuhia e Kuqe" KF Arbëria, "Tigrat" KF Ulpiana, "Legjendat" FC Llapi, "Gladiatorët" KF Vushtrria and from KF KEK were involved in collecting donations, mobilising and sending busloads of volunteers to assist in relief efforts.[99][100][101][102][103][88][104][61]

The Islamic Community of Kosovo organised a fundraising effort on 29 November after Friday prayers across all its mosques within the country and sent several convoys of aid to earthquake victims.[105][106] The Catholic Church in Kosovo sent members from the local branch of the Catholic charity Caritas to assist in Albania.[107] In Kosovo, the Catholic Church held mass on 1 December across the country and it collected charitable donations by parishioners for earthquake victims and their families.[108][109] President Hashim Thaçi was part of a presidential delegation that visited the earthquake epicentre and expressed his condolences on behalf of Kosovo.[110] On 29 November, outgoing Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and his possible successor Albin Kurti visited Durrës to survey the damage and expressed Kosovan commitment to relief efforts and the need for institutional cooperation between both countries.[49][111] In Serbia, ethnic Albanians of the Preševo valley donated aid and sent it through several convoys to earthquake victims.[112]

Albanians from North Macedonia responded in large numbers to the Albanian government's appeal for financial assistance through donations to various humanitarian organisations and special bank accounts fundraising for aid.[113][114] The Islamic Religious Community of Macedonia organised a fundraising effort on 29 November after Friday prayers across all its mosques within North Macedonia.[113] Parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi, Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani and leader of DUI Ali Ahmeti were part of a delegation of Albanian politicians from North Macedonia visiting the earthquake epicentre that expressed their condolences to President Meta.[115] The mayor of Čair, Visar Ganiu visited the earthquake epicentre and brought fans known as "Shvercerat" from the football club FK Shkupi to volunteer assistance.[116] Other football fan groups "Ballistët" KF Shkëndija and "Ilirët" KF Bashkimi collected donations and sent busloads of volunteers to assist in relief efforts.[117][118][88]

Blue and white coloured emergency tents for displaced people near stadium in Durrës

In Montenegro, ethnic Albanians from Ulcinj were involved in a major relief effort sending items such as food, blankets, diapers and baby milk through a local humanitarian organisation Amaneti and in Tuzi through fundraising efforts.[80] A blood donation effort for earthquake victims was organised by the Bosniak Youth Forum of Montenegro with hundreds of Albanians from Ulcinj partaking in the initiative.[80] In Ulcinj, the Islamic Community of Montenegro collected aid for earthquake victims in all mosques of the city and surrounding area.[80]

Various prominent businesses owned by ethnic Albanians and charities in Albania and Kosovo along with notable members of the Albanian community in the Balkans including businessmen, politicians, journalists, actors and socialites made large financial contributions for humanitarian aid.[83][119][82] Businesses that made large donations include the International Albanian Airport (€1,000,000) and Balfin Group (€1,200,000), the charities Fundjavë Ndryshe ($1,400,000) and Shqiptarët për Shqiptarët ($590,000), along with individuals such as Kosovo politician Behgjet Pacolli (€1,000,000) and Albanian businessman Shefqet Kastrati (€1,500,000).[82][120]

Globally, the Albanian diaspora expressed its solidarity[78] and held multiple fundraisers to send money to Albania and assist people impacted by the earthquake.[121] In the United States, an Albanian-American organisation named Albanian Roots raised $1,300,000 for earthquake victims.[121][119][49] Global celebrities of Albanian descent such as Bebe Rexha, Rita Ora, and Dua Lipa pledged support, sent donations, and made visits to the country's most quake-ravaged regions in hopes to rebuild some of the affected areas' infrastructure.[69][122][123][124] In all, these non-state donations by Albanians from the Balkans and global diaspora totaled some 13 million dollars of humanitarian assistance to Albania.[119]

Individual donations by people from 76 countries were also made through online fundraising on the websites GoFundMe and Facebook totaling $3,600,000.[81][13][82] Money from the Albanian diaspora continued to arrive in Albania and Prime Minister Rama tasked a group of fundraisers, that includes a Muslim imam experienced in housing the needy, to combine the donations and maintain oversight of their usage.[70] By early December, all donations for humanitarian assistance totaled $92 million.[57]

The European Union, the Catholic Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Secretary General, presidents of Azerbaijan, China, Armenia, Serbia, Montenegro, United States and Greece, the German Chancellor, the monarchs of Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the Iranian and Estonian foreign ministers expressed their condolences to the people of Albania.[125][126][127][128][129][130][131][132][133][134][135][136][92][137][138]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed his condolences, called for aid from other Muslim countries and stated he will lobby them to give assistance to Albania for future reconstruction.[139][140] Prime Minister Rama contacted President Erdogan and asked for the creation of an international donors conference with one involving western countries and the other with states from the east.[141] Rama also wrote to US President Donald J. Trump and other countries such as Sweden, Malaysia, Japan, Great Britain, Germany and Australia asking for assistance.[62][142]

President Erdogan, citing close Albanian-Turkish relations, committed Turkey to reconstructing 500 earthquake destroyed homes in Albania.[143][144][145][146] The Turkish reconstruction effort will focus on the town of Laç where the homes will be built, along with civic structures such as gardens, parks, shopping centers, parking lots and religious buildings.[147][148] The Turkish government will administer reconstruction in Laç and cooperate with the Albanian government on building designs and getting earthquake affected people quickly into homes.[148] Qatar committed itself to the future reconstruction effort.[149][150]

At the NATO 2019 London summit (3–4 December), constructive discussions were held by Prime Minister Rama with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other European leaders over establishing an international conference for financial aid.[71][151][152] German chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that Germany would provide future assistance.[71] In Istanbul, Turkey held a donors conference (8 December) for Albania that was organised and attended by President Erdogan and included Turkish businessmen, investors and Prime Minister Rama.[153] On 12 December, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio made calls for the establishment of an international conference for financial aid to Albania.[57] Following the completion of the earthquake damage report by Albanian authorities, the European Council announced on 13 December that the European Union will organise an international donors conference for January 2020 in Tirana.[152]

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