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Albania: Press conference of PM Berisha about situation in flooded areas in Shkodra region

Govt. Albania
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- PM Berisha calls on local residents of Dajç, Ana e Malit and Bushat communes to get evacuated

During a press conference, PM Sali Berisha demanded from local residents of Dajç, Ana e Malit and Bushat communes to get evacuated. In his message delivered on this occasion, PM Berisha ensured the local residents that the government will be fully by their side, but it is indispensable even their cooperation for overcoming this rather special natural situation

PM Berisha spoke about total mobilization for coping with this situation and the Inter-ministerial Committee for Civil Emergencies, which convened today by noon in Shkodra town, will report in the afternoon during the meeting of the government and based on their suggestions other decisions on the situation can be taken.

While reiterating the evacuation demand for the local residents, the Prime Minister said that nothing is worthier than the life of these citizens and the wisest decision is to leave the flooded areas.

Full statement of Premier Berisha:

"Today, I appeal to all Dajç, Ana e Malit and Bushat communes residents to get evacuated and leave the endangered-territories. Nothing is more important than that in accordance with local authorities of the area.

Last evening, water flow into Fierza have more than doubled to reach into 1800 m3/s. Water flow into Koman has more than doubled and to keep the acceptable level of the lakes, a decisive step in a situation like this, is to push for a further increase of the water discharges. Weather forecasts speak of further rainfall. Nothing is more important than life of these citizens. The wisest and most courageous decision is to leave the flooded areas.

I would like to ensure the local residents that the government will be in their full support, but it's indispensable cooperation in overcoming this rather special natural situation. Lake water discharges cannot be avoided. The supervisory authority of the dykes is obliged to strictly apply the regulation and is acting in accordance with the regulation of dykes' management. This is to the best interest of all the country citizens.

Hence, I call again on the local residents of Dajç, Ana e Malit and Bushat communes to get evacuated and go beyond the endangered area.

Dajç embankment functions, but one cannot base himself in its functioning. Hence, I appeal to the local residents, especially those of Bushat to leave for a safer area.

I would like to inform that the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Civil Emergencies is settled in Shkodra and held its working meeting there. It will report to the government in the afternoon and the respective decisions on the situation will be taken based on their proposals. Meanwhile, the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Civil Emergencies has drafted all requests. Army and police units' presence is being doubled along with other means to support the population.

Local leaders are on duty and I am in touch with them. The Inter-Ministerial Committee for Civil Emergencies is also doing its duty. Thus, there is total mobilization. Also I talked with the Speaker of the Parliament and Shkodra Mayor and I can speak of a complete mobilization in coping with the situation. The situation will be managed, but on condition people leave the endangered areas, Bushat, Dajçi and from Ana e Malit".

Further on, PM Berisha answered to media interest:

Question: Is this situation caused by failure to apply the dykes' regulation?

PM Berisha: One must be immoral to speculate in a time like this. Everyone can check e-register on Drini cascade: water flows, discharges and compare them to norms dated to year 1988. The regulation has been implemented textually. Albanian Power Corporation began water discharges in line with the regulation. Koman has been kept at 170 meters, the minimum registered. No one will benefit from cheating. All indicators have been registered electronically and the corporation has implemented that.

- Opposition accuses government of paying compensation because it's guilty?

PM Berisha: This is a democratic government. Security of the citizens is the prime thing and the government will stand by their side in whatever natural disaster. When earthquake hit Dibër or Kavaja we offered compensation following proper calculation of the damage. This is a natural disaster and the waters are being discharged on security reasons. And the local inhabitants will get compensation every time discharge gates are open. It is unacceptable to endanger half of Albania when the hydropower stations are overfilled. We stick to the defined regulation. Also the media is doing a wonderful job. Their reporting from the ground is extraordinarily worthy and we are following that.

As a NATO member country, we have informed its emergency center. PM Silvio Berlusconi has sent his key energy advisor and head of Italy big dykes to Albania. Also the government of Austria has inquired about our needs. The governments of Macedonia and Kosova are also willing to offer assistance. However, we shall overcome this situation. No panic, but a determined, wise and serious stand is required.

- Is the army going to use force if the local residents reject the evacuation appeal?

PM Berisha: We try to convince the people otherwise we act like in emergency situation. If we have to save the lives, then we declare the emergency situation. After that, we try to save everything alive. Whereas, for the rest, we have already proved we know how to rebuild. Everyone will get compensation.

-Is this an emergency situation?

PM Berisha: This is the reason why the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Civil Emergencies convened in Shkodra. They forward the assessments and the Council of Ministers takes decision. Naturally, to speak frankly, we are on the brink of it.

-Is there any financial bill of the damage?

PM Berisha: The only account is to save the human lives. We produce the bill after the waters fall, but naturally there is a lot of damage made.

-Is there a danger from Shkodra Lake and what is the situation in dykes of Ulza and Shkopet?

PM Berisha: The lake has swelled lightly, but the Bahçallëk quarter, known for a history of floods will be evacuated. Many families have left the houses. It's an area of low-lying land and it's flooded many a time.

While, Ulza and Shkopet hydropower stations are discharging. However, embankments have functioned well. Different from a record of flooding from Drini and Mati, this time floods happened just because of that powerful wave from the sea. Kurbin and Lezha have less flooded areas and investments have proved proper.

-You spoke about the threshold of a natural disaster. Will there be any analysis on any human responsibility?

PM Berisha: I implied the risk to the human lives. I regret about the rest, but the government will stand by Dajç and Ana e Malit farmers and compensate them. Speaking about responsibility, you check the indicators and regulation at the Power Corporation. We do the utmost about management of earthy events. If anyone uses natural calamity on propaganda reasons then this person is personified into a raven that nourishes on the victims of calamity. This is bitter.

Question: Why is necessary the emergency situation?

PM Berisha: One day news bulletins reported: "Good news for the government and bad news for the people. The good news is that it is snowing and the water discharges are falling and the bad news for the local residents of the North is that they are snowed in. The people who wrote it should beg pardon to the citizens of flooded areas. It seems like SMS information. No journalist might have written that.

In regard to the emergency situation, it implies obligatory removal of the people from flooded areas. And it implies mobilization of all necessary resources e.g. the fishermen are called on payment. While, under the emergency situation other regulation appears. Our main goal is to evacuate people. This is my number one concern.