This week has been very difficult for Albania. The earthquakes of last week-end have deeply shaken the Albanian population in Durres, Tirana and, in fact, in the entire country.
Then Albania faced thunderstorms and unusually heavy rain causing flash flooding in some of the areas affected by the earthquakes.
As of now, approximately 1,500 houses are confirmed damaged, as well as two health centres, five bridges and four power facilities. About 148 people were injured, but fortunately no fatal casualties have been reported.
I have to applaud the Albanian authorities which have been prompt to react, establishing temporary evacuation centres for people displaced from their homes.
The EU and its Member States have also been prompt to offer assistance. Albania is not only close geographically, but close to their heart and concerns. I have also to applaud the generosity and rapidity of the EU Member States response.
We are proud of the efficiency of our EU Civil Protection mechanism. It took only a few days after its activation to set up a team of 8 experts and dispatch it to Albania. The full team, formed by the EU emergency response coordination centre, is here today and will work closely with the Albanian authorities during the next 2 weeks.
As of today, 8 EU Member States have offered assistance through the EU civil protection mechanism: Austria, Croatia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia. Norway and Montenegro are also contributing.
Through the European Union’s coordination, first aid supplies and relief items, such as emergency tents, power generators and food aid kits are already being mobilised to the affected areas.
The ERCC Team deployed yesterday is there to supervise the good receipt and site delivery of the EU assistance, and provide expertise to the Albanian authorities in needed field.
We are now taking care of the present needs, but at the same time we have to work on the long term perspective. The earthquakes have shown the necessity to establish a strong civil protection agency to build capacity on risk management, especially prevention and preparedness.
This week's events have especially exposed the lack of awareness and education of the population and the media, which can prove disastrous in more severe circumstances.
Dear Ministers and colleagues,
I wish the EU Civil Protection team and their Albanian counterparts the best joint efforts and coordination for the next two weeks.
What we see at work today is an example of how EU functions at its best, where solidarity and efficiency are combined to the benefit of the citizens not only in the EU countries, but everywhere in the world.