Coffee protest and a charity campaign: Pernik’s plight after Bulgaria’s May earthquake

The 5.8 Richter scale earthquake epicentred about nine km outside Pernik damaged an estimated 60 per cent of the houses in the Bulgarian mining town and caused damage of about 20 million leva (10 million euro) – and close to four months on and several aftershocks later, some residents are indignant about what they see as official neglect in dealing with the aftermath.

On September 11 2012, a group of protesters gathered in Pernik to drink coffee together in front of municipal government buildings in the town – collectively drinking coffee or water or smoking being a peculiarly Bulgarian form of protest that developed in recent years.

Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said that grievances of those protesting included their claims that rules about compensation were changed on the fly and they felt that the state was unfair in the proportion of the costs that it was prepared to bear. They also were unhappy with the threshold for compensation.

Damage to the Republika towers at Pernik's power station after the May 22 2012 earthquake. Photo: Vassia Atanassova

Nearly four months after the May 22 earthquake, and less than a year to Bulgaria’s 2013 national parliamentary elections, the plight of Pernik has a political dimension. Pernik has tended to vote, over the years, for the Bulgarian Socialist Party whose communist predecessors created the mining town. The socialists have been making much of what they claim to be official foot-dragging about fixing Pernik and have organised a party donation. Not to be outdone, Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB governing party is organising a larger one, aimed at adding up to a total of a million leva.

Also on September 11, the Bulgarian Red Cross started a charity campaign to buy prefabricated housing for people left without dwellings after the May 22 earthquake.

After the quake, which was one of the strongest felt in that part of Bulgaria for many decades, about 50 buildings were condemned to demolition outright. But with large numbers of homes seriously damaged, the impact on people’s lives in Pernik has been hard. Up to 200 properties are still in poor condition, local media said.

Map: US Geological Survey

The Bulgarian Red Cross campaign is raising funds through inviting people to send SMSes to the mobile phone number 1255. Each text message means a lev for the campaign.

Earlier, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov sent Tomislav Donchev, the Cabinet minister in charge of the use of European Union funds and a former mayor of Gabrovo, to oversee the administration of recovery efforts in Pernik.

In Pernik, the steering committee on recovery efforts and local authorities said that more than 100 people already had received from 600 to 2000 leva and more than 6000 citizens had been paid social benefits of 325 leva each. Of the more than 8000 applications for assistance submitted to the interdepartmental commission, most had been processed, according to deputy regional governor Radoslav Yordanov.

(Main photo: Apostoloff)



The Sofia Globe staff

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