The recurrent topic of a potential devastating earthquake in Romania is back on the public agenda, following the 5.4 - magnitude quake that shook the country on Friday night.
Friday night's quake, which was strongly felt in Romania and several neighboring countries, made no victims and caused no material damage. According to the scientific director of the National Institute of Research and Development for Earth Physics Mircea Radulian, quakes that exceed 5 on the Richter scale, with the epicenter in the Vrancea Region in southeastern Romania, take place once every two or three years and release some of the energy accumulated in the tectonic plates.
Romanians are still haunted by memories of the 7.2 magnitude quake of March 4th, 1977, which killed 1,570 people, most of them in Bucharest, and caused material damage estimated at the time at 2 billion dollars. Around 230 thousand homes were destroyed or seriously damaged and 760 economic facilities became inoperative. Romania's state secretary with the Interior Ministry Raed Arafat says that the population should trust the state institutions and their method of operation in case of disaster, and it is the state's duty to prepare citizens for such cases.
Raed Arafat, who is also head of the Department for Emergency Situations, says that people's lack of trust in the state institutions may lead to the loss of human lives especially if citizens are advised, one way of another, not to listen to messages and indications coming from the authorities. Arafat's statement, posted on a social network, came as a reply to a comment, also on social media, by the chief of the Prime Minister's control body, Valentin Mircea, who has stated that Romanians cannot count on the state institutions in case of a powerful earthquake.
Romania's Deputy PM Vasile Dancu presented last week the stage of preparations for a major quake and said that authorities were prepared to intervene. Dancu also said that only 26 out of 607 buildings at risk had been consolidated in the past 15 years under the Development Ministry programmes. The budget allocated this year by the Government for the consolidation of 80 buildings at risk is 25 million lei, the equivalent of over 5 million euros. In Bucharest alone, there are over 180 buildings at risk of being damaged by earthquakes.
Deputy PM Vasile Dancu says that authorities are looking for solutions so that the owners of buildings at risk can be moved to emergency homes in which they can eventually stay for good if they want to, and also get compensations, depending on the buildings' market value. In Romania, Dancu went on to say, there are not enough emergency homes. In order for more buildings to be consolidated the law needs to be changed, because under the current law owners cannot be forced to leave their homes if they do not want to.