Malta will be asking for millions of euros from the EU’s solidarity fund to cover the costs of the damage caused by last month’s freak storm.

Government sources said a review of how much money was required had already indicated “more than €10 million” though the exercise was ongoing.

Malta has only tapped into the fund once before, in 2004, when it received about €960,000 to help deal with floods that had hit the island the previous year.

Funds required to replace street furniture alone was estimated at more than €2 million, the sources said. This, they noted, excluded damaged breakwaters or piers.

Dubbed the worst since 1982, the storm that battered the islands during the last weekend of February caused significant damage across the country. In 48 hours, the Civil Protection Department received and assisted in a record 486 emergency calls, in many cases also with the help of the police and other emergency response teams.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had announced that the government would be seeking to tap the EU’s solidarity fund to help rebuild and repair. Gale-force winds that reached gusts of up to 133 km/hour lashed Malta, uprooting trees, demolishing walls and damaging power lines.

The February storm caused massive damage.

A spokeswoman for EU Funds Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia told the Times of Malta on Tuesday the government was at an advanced stage of evaluating the extent of the damage costs and the secretariat was coordinating with a number of ministries to finalise the figure.

Agriculture, fisheries badly hit

The government sources said agriculture and fisheries were two sectors that sustained heavy damage. Some schools and sports facilities had also been ravaged by the winds.

According to EU regulations, Malta has 12 weeks from the date of first notifying Brussels of its intent to apply for funds to complete the application process. However, it will likely take much longer than that for Malta to actually see any money heading its way from Brussels.

“It is worth noting that the European Union Solidarity Fund is not a rapid response instrument for dealing with the effects of a natural disaster. Financial aid can only be granted to the applying State following an application and budgetary process which can take several months to complete,” Dr Farrugia’s spokeswoman said.

Insurers are still grappling with claims from policyholders who suffered damage to property. 

The director general of the Malta Insurance Association, Adrian Galea, said it was still “too early” to establish the amount that would be claimed. While insurers also had to establish what sort of claims would be filed, Mr Galea said he expected the majority to be related to buildings and their contents, building sites and vehicles.

Policyholders, he said, were not always quick to make claims and, in fact, they were still trickling in.

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