TIRANA (Reuters) – A small company in Albania is struggling to meet demand and produce the first batch of about 500 ambulances governments and agencies are planning to send to Ukraine.
“We were given only two weeks to manufacture 11 ambulances and ship them to Ukraine,” a job that usually takes two months, businesswoman Arjeta Puca told Reuters.
The company employing 14 people, including three from Turkey, has been asked to make hundreds of ambulances but is finding it hard to get vehicles in Albania.
“We have got requests to make up to 500 ambulances, including armoured ambulances but the problem remains that we can not find the vans,” Puca said on Tuesday at her workshop outside the capital Tirana.
The workers are taking new Ford vans and installing oxygen canisters, blue lights, sirens and other tools.
The first 11 ambulances were ordered by a United Nations agency and once finished they will be transported to Poland and on to Ukraine.
Puca, whose company Timak has manufactured ambulances for Albania and Libya, says the U.K. government has also shown interest in 50 ambulances.
The first deal with Ukraine may not have been the most favourable commercially, especially at such short notice, but Puca felt bound to take it.
“Our wish was to make our contribution for Ukraine … in these times you should not think only about money,” she said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, NATO member Albania has joined other European countries in introducing economic sanctions and banning Russian aircraft from its air space.
In early March, Tirana’s municipality renamed a street where the Russian and Ukrainian embassies are located as Free Ukraine to honour Ukraine’s resistance.
The war in Ukraine is a major topic of conversation when workers relax over a cigarette at the Timak workshop.
“From what we have seen in past days we sympathise with what is happening there and we work with a lot of passion here to make the ambulances ready for Ukraine,” said Izet Bytyci, a carpenter.
(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci and Florion Goga; editing by Daria Sito-Sucic and Ed Osmond)