Europe pledges additional support for quake-hit Albania

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The Albanian army uses a remote-controlled explosion to demolish a building in the western port city of Durres, Albania, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. A remote-controlled explosion has demolished the six-storied building considered threatening after being damaged from the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Albania. A quake a week ago killed 51 persons, injured more than 3,000 people, and damaged more than 11,000 buildings. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA – The European Union’s head for crisis management on Thursday visited Albania to assess damages and reconstruction needs after last week’s powerful earthquake.

The 6.4-magnited earthquake on Nov. 26 killed 51 people and injured more than 3,000 others. More than 11,000 buildings were damaged and an estimated 12,000 people made homeless. Many have found shelter in hotels, public buildings, tents, with relatives or in neighboring Kosovo.

The European Commission had already sent 15 million euros ($16.6 million) to Albania.

In his first official mission as a member of the European Commission, Janez Lenarcic met Thursday with Prime Minister Edi Rama and visited quake-hit areas.

Lenarcic called the assessment “crucial in order to get an overview of the extent of the damage so that the EU can appropriately contribute to reconstruction.”

Rama was optimistic, after returning from a NATO summit in London this week, about positive reaction to his plans for an international donors’ conference for earthquake relief.

Rama told the Parliament that the next year’s budget would set 13 billion leks ($117 million) for reconstruction, while 7 billion leks came from donations.

Tirana has pledged to complete reconstruction of the quake-hit areas within 2020.