Worst storm since 1982, Prime Minister tells Parliament

An exercise to quantify the cost of the damage caused by the storm is under way, the Prime Minister says

The Prime Minister said the last time a storm hit with such severity was 1982
The Prime Minister said the last time a storm hit with such severity was 1982

  • Worst storm since October 1982
  • Wind speeds reached 133km/h
  • 486 requests to Civil Protection Department for assistance
  • 2,000 calls to Enemalta reporting electrical issues
  • 111 traffic accidents, none serious
  • 155 tonnes of debris collected in cleaning effort, another 30 tonnes expected by tonight

The storm which hit Malta over the weekend was the worst the island had experienced since October 1982, with the wind having peaked at speeds of 133km/h, the Prime Minister said.

READ MORE: Malta counts the cost of storm damage

Addressing Parliament Monday evening, Joseph Muscat said that an exercise to evaluate and quantify the cost of the damage is currently being carried out by the Works Department and Infrastructure Malta.

Muscat said that the Civil Protection Department - which was aided by the police and the Armed Forces of Malta - received 486 calls requesting assistance in connection with the storm, but that, luckily, nobody had lost their lives.

A number of people who were caught in their homes were evacuated, including 14 people in Sliema and others in Cospicua.

There were 111 traffic accidents connected with the weather reported, but none were serious, he said.

Between Saturday night and 2pm this afternoon, Enemalta received 2,000 calls asking for its assistance, over 900 of which were requests for repair work, most of which has already been carried out.

The Prime Minister highlighted that the LNG tanker, which is permanently moored in Marsaxlokk Bay, did not need to be moved from its location due to the storm.

“Despite the strength of the wind, because of the direction it was blowing from, it did not become necessary to move the tanker,” he said. Had the wind been coming from a direction which would have impacted the tanker, it would have been moved further out to sea, he said.

READ ALSO: Farmer sees livelihood blown away by gale force winds

He went on to say that the main line supplying water to Gozo from Malta suffered serious damage, and that, because of ongoing adverse sea conditions, repair works have not yet been able to start. “This shows the importance of building a reverse osmosis in Gozo,” he said.

A number of historical sites also sustained damaged, Muscat said, including Heritage Malta’s head office at Villa Bighi, Hagar Qim Temples, Fort St Angelo, the Tarxien Temples’ visitors centre, St Paul’s Catacombs, and the Domvs Romana. An estimate of such damages will also be carried out, and repair work has already started, he said.

‘Be it EU funds or national funds, we will help farmers’

When it comes to the extensive damage suffered by farmers, Muscat said the government was examining the possibility of obtaining European Union funds meant to assist countries which experience a natural disaster.

He said that there were three possible European funding sources which Malta couldn’t inquire about.

The first is a fund connected to agriculture, a sector governed by strict EU state aid regulations. “There is a procedure we would have to follow through which state aid laws would be waived in this instance,” he said.

The second instrument is connected to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which can also be used for natural disasters. Muscat said, however, that he doubted Malta could be eligible for this assistance. “My interpretation is that there must be some disruption on the European market as a consequenc of the natural disaster for us to be eligible for this fund,” he said, adding that the government would nonetheless be examining the matter more in depth.

The final possible funding instrument is the European Solidarity Fund. This is calculated by factoring in the country’s Gross National Income, with the damage sustained in the storm having to have caused damage amounting to at least 0.6% of Malta’s GNI. This would be equivalent to €60 million in damage.

“We will have to have sustained damage the financial cost of which is at least €60 million to benefit from this fund. The damage caused still needs to be quantified, and we will move on from that point - it is still very early in the day to say how much damage Malta experiencd.” If the damage is of over €60 million, Malta would qualify for €1.5 million in funds, with this rising to 6% of the excess sum if the damage is of over €60 million.

Regardless of the source of funds - be it from the EU or from the government’s coffers - Muscat said that the government would be helping farmers. “I assure farmers that we will not be forgetting them. We have already analysed the ways in which they will be helping them, and we will do so, as long as there is the required audit trail and no abuse in the individual cases. We will be helping them, be it using our funds, or funds from the EU.”

In this regard, a telephone helpline will shortly be set up which farmers can use to obtain information.

He emphasised however that while the government would be offering as much help as possible to those affected by the storm, it “couldn't take on the role of a private insurer.”