Minister Kodheli on the situation of fires: we have engaged 40 percent of the Armed Forces

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The Minister of Defense, Ms. Mimi Kodheli, accompanied by the General Director of Civil Emergencies, Mr. Shemsi Prençi, held today a press conference about the situation caused by the fires and the commitment of the Armed Forces to extinguish them.

Initially, Minister Kodheli emphasized that the weather conditions and high temperatures that have involved not only our country, but all Southern Europe have caused many problems.

Returning to the aggravated situation in our country, Minister Kodheli stressed not only the commitment of the Armed Forces coping with the fires but of the entire government and that of Prime Minister Rama.

Later, Mrs. Kodheli informed about the number of Armed Forces operations to extinguish the fires, their dispersion, the number of committed forces and the vehicles, and the cost so far.

Minister Kodheli thanked the Armed Forces for sacrifice and dedication, not forgetting to mention Skender Hyseni, who was hurt in an attempt to extinguish the fire on the mountain of Derje in Shëngjergj of Tirana and was awarded the medal for "Distinguished Services”.

Also Mrs. Kodheli thanked the neighboring countries for their assistance and especially the citizens of Dukati, who have been very cooperative and hospitable with the Armed Forces officials during the extinction of the fire there.

In his speech, Prençi thanked the commitment of the Armed Forces to extinguish the fires in the country and called for the increase of technical capacity, taking as example the equipping of soldiers by the Ministry of Defense with personal pumps to operate in difficult areas.

Here is the full speech of Minister Kodheli:

Good afternoon and greetings to everyone,

We are living one of the hottest periods of recent years coupled with massive fires everywhere, not only in Albania but also in Europe. From the latest statistics I have, it is threefold the number of fires in the last 8 years across Europe, compared to the average European statisticians extract. This is a dramatic situation, not only for Albania, but for the whole of Europe, with significant loss of natural resources, loss of people, material, everything good that human hands create and are just burnt by a single fire.

The weather condition is out of the ordinary, and I emphasize also in Albania, due to the extremely high temperatures and the almost inexistent precipitation. And this has in fact led the country to a really very difficult situation. This has led the MoD and the Armed Forces to be in charge of the task and intervene to help the community with all the capacities they have. There is an utmost commitment on our part and on the part of the government to cope with this situation.

Prime Minister Rama has followed closely and continues to follow in detail all the operations undertaken by the state structures with the full involvement of the CE, local government and certainly strongly supported by our Armed Forces.

The cooperation between the structures is in fact something to be congratulated on and today is invited the CE Director, Mr. Prençi, whom I really want to thank for the extraordinary cooperation. During a calendar month, which I actually point out is one of the hottest recorded, our military have carried out a total of 102 community aid operations. These operations are carried out in 9 counties out of 12 that the country has. There are engaged 2750 forces that are actually 1/3 of our Armed Forces or 40% of people who are in uniform. There were also 320 motor vehicles used and the military personnel involved were that of the Land Force, the Navy Force and the Air Force, the Command Support, the Military Police, who fought daily with fire, as you have actually seen and transmitted.

All Air Force helicopters have been on duty, have performed recessive flights without interruption and have even participated in direct and concrete engagements in extinguishing the fires. The flying crews have flown for about 143 hours and have performed, as I said, the duties that, I must underline, are tasks beyond their military obligations or their day-to-day engagements.

Special thanks go to all the members of the Armed Forces for the real heroism they have shown in extinguishing the fire and in supporting the community. The superhuman sacrifice in coping with the fires did not in fact leave without injuring corporal Hidri, during a firefighting operation in Shëngjergj of Tirana. So for this reason, today, I confer Corporal Hidri the medal for outstanding services.

In fact, frankly speaking, we have received a great help from the neighbors, who are maximally engaged, despite the fact that they have unusual problems with the fires in their countries as well. In the late hours of Friday I talked with my counterpart, the Italian Minister of Defense, Mrs Pinotti, who actually I seize the opportunity to publicly thank her for the engagement in a late hour and her help. The Italian AF does not actually have the direct CE performing this mission because they have, as a powerful state, a special structure well-equipped to do so; Just as our Armed Forces do not really have it, but the support of the population has not been questioned at any moment because of its good neighborliness and because of one of most important allies, Italy.

Also given the case, I want to thank Minister Bushati for his intervention and making possible to bring from our neighbor Greece some planes which have served to extinguish fires.

This difficult situation created, you better than I, know that is called "Lucifer" and has actually caused great hardships, especially in southern European countries. Even powerful states such as France have sought EU assistance; powerful states like Portugal have had a lot of losses in humans, to a considerable extent. Spain, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, continue to have problems with fire. And since we are here, I actually want to call on all citizens of the Republic of Albania to give their contribution in helping to cope with this situation.

Another call I make: Let not only help cope with the situation, but not create one. To date, the Ministry of Defense has spent over a month over 30 million new leks and this is just the beginning. This is all Albanian taxpayers' money. So I believe it is not too much to say that we should keep trees, shrubs and pastures, because they our assets from north to south. So I would be praying for you to take care of even when we throw a cigarette out of the car.

I want to extend through you a prayer for all Albanians who live abroad and come for holidays, to help the country by not helping to create a small fire and then become problematic due to the temperature. So I want to extend the call for awareness all together.

The last thing, I did not unintentionally leave it to the end, but it turns out to be the most important praise: it is for the people of Dukat with whom I am amazed. I want to thank all those good people who have received our military as if they were their children. They often tried to invite them home, give them a glass of water more, seeing the situation in which the military worked. We still need people like the people of Dukat. So I want to thank you from the heart.

I believe that closes the work done in this difficult month.

If there is any question I am ready to answer.

Thank you for the presence on a hot day like today.

Question: Will we continue to have the support of our counterparts during these days and is it necessary to call even beyond neighboring countries with regard to the situation of fires?

Minister Kodheli: No sooner than yesterday we had a well-organized joint action in the early hours of the morning, where we made an inspection of almost all the fire-places that in our judgment have been extinguished to see if we had some problems that could come back to us in such a situation. The situation is already under control, in addition to recent firefighting information in Thumana of Kruja, all other fire-places are extinguished. So I hope we will not need to call our neighbors while the neighbors have asked for our help, but it was a time that we had the AF all engaged and we could not give our help to them.

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