Albania’s earthquake victims claim state failing to provide aid

More than two weeks after deadly earthquake, some families who lost homes say they have received little to no aid.

Albania earthquake by Katy Fallon
Some families who lost their homes in an earthquake that killed 51 people say they have received little to no aid from the state [Katy Fallon/Al Jazeera]

Lezhe County, Albania – On November 26, Albania was hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which killed 51 people.

The aftermath saw a large outpouring of support, particularly from Albania’s neighbour Kosovo which donated 500,000 euros to relief efforts.

A total of 15m euros has been pledged by the European Union while pop stars with Albanian heritage such as Bebe Rexha, Rita Ora and Dua Lipa have thrown their support behind initiatives to raise money for those affected.

More than two weeks later, some families who lost their homes say they have received little to no aid from the state.

Irena Doci, 23, lives near the village of Mamurras and is now staying in a small hut in her garden with her five children, husband and father in law.

“When the earthquake happened I gave my small son to my husband and ran upstairs to get the children,” she told Al Jazeera.

She was told that she could return to her house after the earthquake but just this week, an aftershock caused a wall in one of the children’s bedrooms to crumble.

“I haven’t received anything from the municipality,” Doci told Al Jazeera. “No food or clothes or anything.”

She cried as she walked around the remains of her house, filled with cracks and partially collapsed walls.

Albania earthquake by Katy Fallon
Irena Doci’s house is filled with cracks and partially collapsed walls [Katy Fallon/Al Jazeera]

“My husband earns 200 euros a month, he is the only one in the family with a permanent job and we have had no real assistance yet,” she said.

She pointed to a tent in the garden still in its packaging, which is supposed to act as a temporary lodging for the family, saying she had no idea how to build it.

While she was speaking to Al Jazeera, members of the Albanian army appeared, put up the tent in her back garden and left, but provided no other aid.

Lindita Basha who lives near Fushe-Mamurras also said that she had not received any aid.

“I don’t know why no one has come,” she said.

She still sleeps in the house, but her two sons aged 18 and 27 sleep in a tent outside because of the numerous aftershocks.

“I don’t care if I die but I want them to live,” she said.

‘I knew they were dead straight away’

In the village of Vlashaj, abandoned houses were damaged and residents were scared.

None of the residents Al Jazeera interviewed had received significant aid from the state.

In the town of Thumane, which saw one of the highest death tolls, Bujar Cuka lost his wife and 18-year-old son.

“I then saw the roof collapse on them,” he said, “I knew they were dead straight away.”

He has received some aid in recognition of his loss – about 8,000 euros has been deposited into his bank account, but is unclear what the money is in compensation for.

“I don’t know whether it’s for expenses or to make up for the lives we have lost? There is no money that can make up for this,” Cuka told Al Jazeera.

Cuka and his daughter are still homeless and staying with relatives.

“I was told that the prime minister wanted to build a house for me,” he said, “but we have heard nothing about this since then. They tried to move me to a far-away apartment near no one I knew.”

Cuka told Al Jazeera that Elvis Naci, a well-known religious figure in Albania, had offered to build a house for him but that the government turned down the offer insisting that it would provide for him.

“We’ve been promised a lot but it feels like empty words,” Cuka says. “For us the hope has died.”

Albania earthquake by Katy Fallon
Irina Doci lives in a shabby hut in the garden with her children to avoid danger in case of further aftershocks [Katy Fallon/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera asked Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office when the areas it visited might expect to receive more or any aid and whether Bujar Cukar and his daughter would be provided with a house they were promised.

Rama’s spokesman Endri Fuga said more than 13,000 people had been “accommodated” after the earthquake, with 5,000 in hotels.

People in rural areas, he said, were given winter tents, while rent aid was on the way.

“All families who lost a member during the earthquake have been put on financial aid,” he claimed.

Source: Al Jazeera