Montenegro boosts action on disaster resilience

By Rosalind Cook

Podgorica, Montenegro, 15 April 2019 - Major efforts are underway in Montenegro to reduce the risks from disasters with the launch of a national disaster loss database to mark the 40th anniversary of a major earthquake.

On April 15 1979, at 07:19 in the morning, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Montenegro. The earthquake, which lasted 10 seconds, was concentrated on the coast of Montenegro and Albania, and severely damaged the old towns of Kotor, Budva, Herceg Novi, Bar and Ulcinj. It resulted in the tragic loss of life and injury. 101 people were killed, more than a thousand injured and around 80,000 people were left without their homes, with 27 300 housing units damaged. The economic damages at the time totaled approximately 10% GPD of what was then then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, representing around 4 billion euros in today’s values. The knock-on effects on transport, healthcare and schools was severe. The roads and railways were heavily hit, with almost 550 km of major and regional roads in the country requiring repair. The earthquake also had a major impact on social services, healthcare and schools. 240 school facilities were damaged and 53 health services were impacted.

40 years on, the lessons of this disaster are still at the forefront of minds as the government takes major action to increase its disaster resilience.

At a special event yesterday marking the 40th anniversary, the government of Montenegro launched an important development in systematically measuring and accounting for disaster losses to underpin risk reduction measures. Minister Nuhodzić, Minister of Internal Affairs of Montenegro announced, “In cooperation with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, a [new] database on damages from disasters, including earthquakes, has been established," The national disaster loss data collection system represents a significant step forward to underpinning the evidence base of DRR policies and measures. It unifies all historical data on disasters in the country to enable the full picture on disaster risk, including earthquakes and climate change related events. The data also feeds directly into the international reporting process to collect government data on progress to meet the Sendai Framework and Sustainable Development Goals.The project was also supported by the European Union’s IPA DRAM Project.

The database builds on a series of investments in disaster resilience in Montenegro, including a National Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted at the end of 2017, defining a clear path for further development and strategic solutions on disaster resilience. Looking ahead, the country is already planning the next steps, "Our next priority is to develop National Risk Assessment for Montenegro within a two-year period” said Mirsad Mulić, General Director of Directorate for Emergency Situations at the Ministry of Interior.

The anniversary event was attended by over 200 participants who also highlighted the importance of active engagement and organization of communities and citizens in reducing the risks of disasters.  Participants concluded that is a need to constantly improve knowledge in the field of ​​risk reduction and ensure the action at all levels is closely connected.

The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, organising the event, emphasized the importance of earthquake prevention in buildings and architectural practice.

"We have a beautiful country, but if we are not capable to understand all the characteristics of this beautiful piece of land, we will not manage to protect our people from disasters”, said Luka Mitrovic, Director of Institute for Hydrometeorology and Seismology of Montenegro.

The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018 The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018.
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