2020 quakes caused major losses, damage, but led to unprecedented reconstruction

(Hina) - The Zagreb area and the Banovina region experienced major losses and damage from the 2020 earthquakes, which also led to an unprecedented reconstruction of public buildings, a conference in Zagreb heard on Friday.

The event, organised by the University of Zagreb and the Croatian Centre for Earthquake Engineering (HCPI) on the fourth anniversary of the Zagreb earthquake, focused on the reconstruction of public buildings damaged in the magnitude 5.5 tremor.

The academic community had worked on the reconstruction of those buildings for years before the earthquake, acquiring knowledge which it transferred to the state level after the disaster, university head Stjepan Lakušić said.

He said the academic community insisted on complete reconstruction, rather than restoring public buildings to the state they were in before the earthquake.

Engineer Josip Atalić of the HCPI said engineers were very proud of their contribution after the earthquake, and that once the aftershocks stopped, they issued many publications educating the public about earthquakes and continued to work on the problems.

Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Minister Branko Bačić thanked everyone, notably scientists and experts, and most of all the HCPI, for doing a lot at that time, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The earthquakes prompted Croatia to make a step forward in organising life, and the government, following experts' advice, pushed before the European Commission for a complete reconstruction model, rather than restoring buildings to the state they were in before the earthquake, he said.

In a short time, more was done on reconstruction than ever before, comprising 1,330 projects worth €3.3 billion, he added.

We passed the test, as confirmed by the Commission's claim that in post-earthquake reconstruction and utilisation of the EU Solidarity Fund, Croatia was an excellent example of how and how fast to spend the money, Bačić said.

Last year, 77% of the money was spent, which is an indicator of good reconstruction, he said, adding that public buildings as well as 45,000 private housing units were rebuilt in 2023.

Public procurement often slowed down construction, but overall we can say that Croatia was up to the task of post-earthquake reconstruction and did not allow poor construction for the sake of speed, Bačić said.

Education and Science Minister Radovan Fuchs said that after the 2020 earthquakes, the seismological profession was technically enhanced and that the the importance of earthquake education came to the fore.

To date, 78 projects of complete reconstruction of public buildings in science and education have been completed and 64 are under way, he said, adding that 360,000 square metres of space in the science and education sector has been rebuilt so far.

Zagreb Deputy Mayor Luka Korlaet said the city had 207 public building reconstruction projects, of which 177 have been completed, while the rest are expected to be completed by no later than the end of 2026.

To date, the city has absorbed €190 million from the EU Solidarity Fund and another €50 million has been ensured under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.