New Quake Hits Croatia After March Tremor Left $6 Billion Damage

(Bloomberg) -- An earthquake rattled Croatia’s capital a month after a stronger tremor left Zagreb in need of $6 billion for renovation, adding to a growing list of costs as the European Union battles the coronavirus.

The 3.5-magnitude temblor on Thursday was smaller than the March 22 quake, the worst to hit the city in 140 years. Last month’s tremor damaged buildings throughout the historic center, leaving officials wondering how they’ll pay for rebuilding the city of 1 million people.

More than 20,000 buildings remain in need of repair, including the Finance Ministry and one of the central bank’s venues. Zagreb’s iconic neo-Gothic cathedral, whose decades-long renovation was close to completion, lost its twin spires. Most damage took place inside structures, complicating rebuilding efforts.

“Most of the center was built after a devastating earthquake in 1880, with the materials that were then in use, and periodically renovated by owners, sometimes without much thought about the issues of statics,” said Zvonko Makovic, who’s part of group of historians, urban planners and architects seeking to advise the government on future renovation. “What we have today is a city center shaken to the core.”

A heated public debate is raging over how to approach reconstruction and funding, with many damaged residences owned privately by people without earthquake insurance and in buildings protected by historic heritage rules.

“We should renovate everything that’s possible to renovate, rather than knocking it down,” said Makovic. “Anything else would change the identity of Zagreb.”

Some have said the city should seek financial help from the EU.

“Zagreb has the right to seek help from appropriate EU funds,” said Ines Sabalic, representative of the City of Zagreb in Brussels. “The additional misfortune is that it happened in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, amid ghostly empty offices of the European Commission which is now focused on saving the bloc’s economy.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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