At least 150 families in Durrës have returned nearly five years after the earthquake, to two buildings declared uninhabitable and marked for demolition. On the verge of the extreme decision, there are other families, out of a total of 2500, who have been without rent bonus for a year.  Urban planner Artan Kaçani warns that the tragedy of 2019 may recur, and this time, the disaster won’t be natural but rather a result of the state’s negligence. Can the Reconstruction be considered a success, as claimed by the Mayor of Durrës, Emirjana Sako?

Ervina Garo

Building 62, located on ‘Neki Libohova’ street in Durrës, has been deemed uninhabitable, with level DS4 damages. Yet, the clothes hanging on wires on the building’s balconies indicates the return of families to this ghostly structure. Nearly 5 years after the tragic earthquake, the building still stands unrepaired. Residents have been without rental assistance since March 2023, and many have chosen to return to the rubble, aware of the life-threatening risk, silently bargaining with death.

Durrës, apartment occupied in Building 62 with DS4 damage level

The building is uninhabitable; what falls outside, enters inside. Instead of getting better, it’s getting worse. Where do we turn to now?! You tell us! 11 months without getting the bonus. No one supports you during this time. We have no clue how our problem will be solved. 4 years flew and nothing happened’ – says the Building Administrator to Faktoje, one of the few willing to speak up.

Dozens of families in Durrës are making the extreme decision

Over 100 families have returned into the building 62 in Neighborhood 17 in Durrës, despite the apartments not being reconstructed with a half roof overhead today, that could turn into a tragedy tomorrow. Theft of materials from common areas such as water or electricity meters, cables, or other devices has been another reason that has led these families to the extreme decision.

The repopulation of ghost buildings has started several months ago, and Building 62 is just one of them. Families returning to live in the rubble they escaped from after the earthquake, with inadequate income and no rental assistance for nearly a year, have found coexisting with life-threatening risks as their only option.

Even more dramatic is the decision of approximately 50 other families to return to Building 12, in Neighborhood 5 in Durrës, a structure deemed for demolition by the Building Institute.

‘Home is the investment of a lifetime. My grandparents have also returned. We can’t leave them on their own, so I’ve come to stay with them. We don’t know when the repairs will start’, – says Erion L. to Faktoje, who mentions that most families in this building are elderly.

Urban Planner’s Warning: Residents in Danger of Death!

Urban planner Artan Kaçani describes the return to these damaged homes as a ticking time bomb for the entire city.

‘The danger is not just from earthquakes, but from any kind of disturbance. The environment should remain untouched, as any disruption poses a risk, whether it be heavy machinery passing through, construction work nearby, or heavy loads. In short, the environment should not be inhabited. The building environment should not be touched at all.

 Artan Kaçani, Urban Planner

Tapes should be placed around buildings with damage levels DS4 and DS5′, –  warns Kaçani, who has mapped the buildings according to the damage scale from DS3 to DS5 in Durrës.

Map identifying damaged buildings DS1-DS5 (with dark lines indicating buildings marked for demolition DS5).

When it comes to damage levels DS4 and DS5, the responsibility of returning to live is crucial, as it equals the risk of death, not only for these residents but for the entire area.

Without rental assistance, other families are threatening to return to the rubles

Anida Selimi was left homeless after the November 2019 earthquake Together with the other 15 families who lived in the five-story building in this neighborhood, she hopes for a solution from the local authorities.

‘I have sent letters to the municipality requesting a meeting with the mayor, but it seems they end up in the trash bin. I have submitted two personal requests. I am unemployed, and my husband is disabled. We haven’t paid the rent. What should I say? Wait for the state’s budget to get to receive the rent?’ – she said.

‘No one has come to see us. We also are residents of this city, even though we live in NISH Tulla.’ Anida concludes, warning that they will return to their damaged home if the situation does not change.

Durrës, building 12, declared DS5 level damage and scheduled for demolition

According to the official response from Durrës Municipality, the most damaged administrative unit from the earthquake is Unit 5, which includes several well-known areas such as the beach area and Shkozet.

Ironically, even the building of Administrative Unit number 5 itself has been damaged by the earthquake, but it continues to serve despite employees confirming they are constantly at risk of their lives. When talking to them, it’s difficult to tell if they are more afraid of the building potentially collapsing or the pressure not to speak to the media.

 The premises within Administrative Unit No. 5 in Durrës

What did the mayor say about the reconstruction in Durrës

Referring to public statements, the deadlines for completing the reconstruction process have been consistently extended.

In April 2023, during an interview with ABC News, the Mayor, Emiriana Sako, described the Reconstruction as a successfully accomplished task, expected to be completed by 2024.

However, Durrës Municipality, in an official response to Faktoje in the early months of 2024, confirms that there are still 66 buildings awaiting reinforcement and 33 undergoing reconstructions. On the other hand, the local authority remains unable to determine the number of homeless families, those who have returned to damaged apartments, and those awaiting the handover of new apartments, indicating negligence in assessing the on-site situation.

Edlira Jakova, an accounting specialist, views the management of the Reconstruction funds as chaotic.

‘Timeline of the process is too long, and this has had a negative impact on both families, who are still without their homes, and businesses, which had establishments on the ground floors of these buildings. This has led to the suspension of their activities and consequently to the lack of income for their families.

Several schools are still incomplete, forcing students to attend classes in shifts. It was expected that the Reconstruction process would be completed by 2024. However, as citizens of this city, we are aware that this cannot happen’ – she said.

 Edlira Jakova, Accounting Specialist

The lack of transparency in this process remains the Achilles’ heel, according to the specialist, who also highlights other violations.

‘In the beach area, families have received compensation for DS2 damage. Later, their building was reevaluated, and the level was upgraded to DS3. Despite applying for and submitting the required documentation, these families have not received the difference.’

On the other hand, the approved budget at the end of 2023 indicates that this process will be dragged on for at least another two years.

‘In the approved budget reports, there are considerable funds allocated to Reconstruction for the period 2024-2026. This means that Reconstruction will be extended for at least another two years’ – Jakova asserts.

Durrës Municipality – contradictory responses regarding the reconstruction deadlines

In its official response, Durrës Municipality does not specify a deadline for the reconstruction, justifying it by stating that the process does not solely rely on it.

All municipalities have been notified that after March 2023, rent bonuses will no longer be funded by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, but will be provided for in the municipality’s budget.

The de juro response from the local authority does not definitively (de facto) specify when the 2,500 families, who have been waiting for almost a year, will receive their rent bonuses, forcing them to return to earthquake-damaged homes.

‘In light of the ongoing need for funding in certain Reconstruction projects, Durrës Municipality has decided to prioritize investments in the 2024 budget’, – states the official letter (with a link) from the institution, leaving unexplained what solution will be provided to homeless families and those without rent bonuses.

In its ‘no-reply’ response, Durrës Municipality contradicts itself by stating that it is unable to determine the deadline for the completion of Reconstruction, as it is a process that does not solely depend on it. However, it also confirms that this process is nearing completion.


Dragging of the reconstruction process in Durrës and neglect of 2,500 homeless families, without rent bonuses for almost a year, have forced many of them to return to the ruined buildings. Returning to buildings with DS 4 and DS 5 damage levels, according to the expert, poses a significant risk, and there’s a high probability that repopulating them could result in a second tragedy following the November 2019 earthquake. Therefore, the statement by the Mayor of Durrës, Emirjana Sako, that the reconstruction process is a success and will be completed by 2024 is false and verges on sarcasm.



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