EU team, Albanians try to assess cost of uprising
Mar. 18, 1997
TIRANA, Albania (AP) _ Piles of silvery ashes, some still holding the shape of stacked books, lay amid the twisted wreckage of the library. In the shattered laboratories, only a few microscope slides remain whole.
Before looters left the palm- and pine-dotted campus of Albania's agricultural institute they scratched a message into the bare walls: ``This is occupied.''
``This was a well-equipped laboratory, on the same standard as other European labs,'' said lab technician Rita Jano, glass shards crackling under her feet. ``Within a couple of hours, it was destroyed.''
While Albanians started to clean up the debris of two weeks of mayhem, a fact-finding mission from the European Union _ hoping the worst turmoil had ended _ assessed Albania's needs for assistance.
Though the capital was largely calm, 12 towns in southern Albania remained under rebel control, making a complete damage assessment impossible.
The speaker of the Parliament, Pjeter Arbnori, warned Tuesday of a possible coup. He said the insistence by a group of former army officers and secret police that President Sali Berisha resign by Thursday ``threatened the constitutional order.''
In the south, the insurgent National Salvation Council warned of more unrest unless Berisha steps down. If he capitulates, they said, he would be replaced by a committee that includes insurgents.
EU officials traveled to Albania's biggest seaports, Durres and Vlora, to determine how to deliver food and medicine. On Monday, Berisha had requested EU aid to keep the country from sliding further into chaos.
A spokesman for Albania's navy, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Vlora is overrun by mobs who have come to the city's naval base in hopes of finding passage out _ even though there are no boats there.
While desperate, would-be refugees flooded the beaches of Durres, a jumping-off point for Italy, vandals ransacked the city's royal palace _ stripping even the wallpaper.
The navy spokesman, though, said the city was under government control.
The anti-government protests began after nearly every Albanian family lost money in shady investment schemes that collapsed in January. More than 10,000 Albanians have fled to Italy and Greece, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
On Thursday, looters hit the outskirts of Tirana and a crowd of 200 to 300 began to tear apart the agricultural institute. Teen-agers, children and even elderly women were in the crowd that swarmed the campus, said Sashenka Baha, a 48-year-old laboratory worker.
Jano, the 40-year-old lab technician, stood in the entrance to the chemistry lab building Tuesday amid piles of notes and smashed glass. She said workers and their families had been devastated by the destruction but after a couple days began clearing up the mess.
The destruction cut a crooked path through the institute. A line of greenhouses was spared, but window frames and bars were pried off buildings. A portable copy machine lay on its side, apparently thrown from a window above. Metal bookshelves and piles of ashes and burned books were all that remained of the library stacks, but a cafe in the same building was untouched and full of customers.
Vladimir Spaho, the vice-rector, sat hunched over a cup of espresso, a cigarette perched between trembling fingers. He said it would cost $5 million just to repair the buildings.