Gov't adopts several decisions to help flood victims

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The Croatian government on Thursday held an extraordinary session in the eastern town of Zupanja, hit by recent floods, at which it adopted eight decisions for the purpose of helping residents of the flood-hit areas.

The state will cover the cost of making new personal documents for the residents of the flood-hit areas of eastern Croatia, it will provide funds for 50% of three monthly salaries of people working in companies in the flood-hit areas that currently do not operate, the power supplier HEP will cover the cost of checks on the electrical wiring, and high school students will sit for their school-leaving examinations at a later date - these are some of the measures the government approved today in an effort to deal with the consequences of the recent floods.

The government entrusted the highway operator HAC with securing HRK 100 million for repair works on public roads damaged by the floods.

The funds will be used to repair county and local roads, while state roads will be repaired with HAC's regular funds, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Sinisa Hajdas Doncic said.

He said that additional funds would be secured should damage to roads be greater than expected.

The state will give up on 25% of the long-term land lease, the long-term fish farm lease and the concession fee for this year. The government suggested that local self-government units do the same, with counties giving up on 10% of the amount of those fees and municipalities and towns on 65%. The decision refers to 10,000 hectares of state-owned land in the municipalities of Gunja, Vrbanja, Hrvatska Kostajnica and Pleternica, said Agriculture Minister Tihomir Jakovina.

The Agriculture Ministry will use budgetary reserves to pay compensation to animal farmers whose livestock has been killed in the floods. This decision currently refers to some 200 flooded farms in Gunja, Drenovci, Vrbanja, Hrvatska Kostajnica and Pleternica.

The state will also help agricultural producers in the flood-hit areas by providing them with seeds, fertilisers and fuel.

The government will also send to the flood victims 1,500 camp beds, pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, around 1.5 tonnes of pork, a tonne of beef, 11.65 tonnes of canned meat, 3 tonnes of canned fish, 10,000 dehydrated meals, and more than 1,000 baby meals. The value of the aid exceeds 2.77 million kuna.

Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak said that HEP would repair the high and low-voltage grid in the flooded areas and that it would check, free of charge, electricity wiring in private houses in the flood-hit areas. The cost of this is estimated at 25 million kuna, he said.

The government decided that Zupanja would be the regional centre for the reception and distribution of humanitarian aid intended for the flood-hit areas.

Budgetary funds will be used to repair all family houses and other housing facilities damaged by the floods in Vukovar-Srijem County.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said this decision referred to damage caused to private property, which would be repaired after repair criteria were determined.

"We will wait for the flood waters to recede, after which professionals are to start working," Milanovic said, adding that the country should rely on its own forces in reconstruction. "I would not want damage to be extensive so that we can receive assistance from the EU, I'd rather it was less extensive."

The Foreign and European Affairs Ministry was today entrusted with formulating and submitting an application for assistance from EU funds and from international organisations, to be used in removing the consequences of the floods and for repair works in the flood-hit areas.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Vesna Pusic said Croatia could apply for assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund. "If the damage is estimated at 0.64% of GDP or 254 million euros, we can submit an application on our own, but we can also apply together with Serbia, if that EU candidate country, qualifies for EU assistance."

She added that Croatia could also apply for assistance from the UN coordination mechanism, "where we would have to submit a list of priorities," as well as from the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Office, "in connection with people who have left their homes."

Labour and Pension System Minister Mirando Mrsic said that companies in the flood-hit areas that could not operate would be given grants to preserve jobs amounting to 50% of a salary for the period of three months.

Science, Education and Sport Minister Zeljko Jovanovic said there was a possibility to delay school-leaving examinations for high school students in the flooded areas and that they could be postponed even until autumn. He added that he would talk to publishing companies so that all students from the flood-hit areas were given free books for the next school year.

The government today also approved using budgetary reserves to cover the cost of engagement of police and army forces in the flood-hit areas.

"Real work is yet to begin," said PM Milanovic, who thanked all those who have helped the flood victims.

"In cooperation with local and county authorities we are continuing this difficult job which, objectively, might have been too difficult for the regional authorities considering the extent of the disaster," said Milanovic.

After the government session, PM Milanovic and his ministers visited Rajevo Selo in the area of Zupanja, one of the villages hit hardest by the floods.