Preparedness pays off as Danube flood-wave passes through Croatia

Published: 8 July 2013 23:21 CET

By Marinko Metlicic, Disaster Management Coordinator, Croatian Red Cross
The flood-wave on the Danube River – which caused wreaked havoc across Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary – has passed through Croatia without serious consequence thanks to enormous efforts to implement disaster preparedness measures.
From the outset, when the potential for a major disaster became apparent, the Croatian Red Cross played an important role at local and national level as a member of the crisis management teams that worked to make sure the threat of disaster did not become a reality.
The Croatian Red Cross carried out a range of preparedness and support activities, which included hundreds of Red Cross volunteers filling thousands of sandbags. The sandbags were used to strengthen existing dykes and levees, which were then monitored 24 hours a day over several days. Volunteers also prepared and distributed food and water to those involved in flood defence activities, helping to keep the operation going. In just three days, the Croatian Red Cross prepared and distributed 1,778 meals and 5,893 litres of water.
Local Red Cross branches set up emergency phone lines for both residents and volunteers. In total, across the two counties of Osjecko baranjska and Vukovarsko srijemska, 993 volunteers were either mobilized or on standby. In addition to these volunteers from the two at-risk counties, the Croatian Red Cross placed 150 trained volunteers from neighbouring counties on standby, ready to carry out assessments, first aid, tracing services, psychosocial support, shelter, and water and sanitation activities.
An emergency evacuation centre was set up, as well as a headquarters emergency intervention team. Two regional and central warehouses were also on standby with pre-positioned stock, in particular emergency shelter items.
Although a major disaster did not materialize as expected – the flood-wave had subsided by the time it reached Croatia – the Croatian Red Cross was able to draw valuable lessons and experience from the operation. The Croatian Red Cross continues to support a small number of affected households with dehumidifiers, and the National Society was also able to assist the German Red Cross with 60 dehumidifiers during the severe flooding in its country.