Two-thirds of the Maltese people fear the authorities are not prepared to deal with a full-scale natural disaster, a new study has found.

A European Commission survey carried out in March found that the number of Maltese who lack confidence in the country’s ability to handle a disaster grew by nearly 10 per cent over the past decade, the largest increase in Europe.

The report follows another published in 2015 by Eurobarometer, which had found that nine out of every 10 Maltese respondents felt the EU was better equipped to deal with a potential disaster than the local authorities.

About 98 per cent expected other member states to deploy assets to assist Malta, the highest figure in Europe.

In the latest report, the sentiment was just as strong, with nearly all Maltese respondents saying other member states should step in were Malta to be hit by an earthquake or some other disaster.

Last year, this newspaper had reported that the government was gearing up to undertake an extensive review of the country’s ability to handle a crippling catastrophe.

A national risk assessment was carried out by the government’s newly-set up critical infrastructure protection unit, which refused to divulge the findings of the assessment. Unit head John Agius would not comment when contacted and a spokesman for the unit cited “security reasons”.

Mr Agius had told the Times of Malta last year that some preliminary tests had already been conducted, including a drill at the airport simulating the arrival of an Ebola-infected passenger. Oil spill and earthquake scenarios had also been simulated.

The EU survey found that although trust in local authorities in terms of preparedness was low, more than half of respondents thought the EU could step in to save lives, the highest trust rating in Europe.

Nearly all Maltese respondents knew that the EU had measures in place that could be implemented if Malta were struck by an unforeseeable disaster.

The Maltese did not only expect the EU as such to intervene but also that individual neighbouring countries, such as Italy, would assist the island.

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