Worst flooding in decades devastates Central and Eastern Europe

Published: 31 July 2008 0:00 CET

Joe Lowry International Federation Representative for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine Photos courtesy of REUTERS/AlertNet - www.alertnet.org

At least 27 people have died in Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, following days of severe storms and flooding. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless, hundreds of towns and villages are without electricity and many bridges and roads have been damaged. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are working around the clock, helping to evacuate people and providing immediate relief to the affected populations, in close cooperation with local and national authorities.

In Ukraine, the disaster killed at least 22 people including six children, while two people are still missing. According to some government sources, this is the worst flooding in Ukraine in 100 years. The most affected regions are Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernvitsy, with Zakarpattya, Lviv, Ternopil and Vinitsia also badly flooded. Some 40,000 houses, more than 30,000 hectares of croplands and nearly 700 kilometres of roads have been damaged by flooding in these regions and some 300 towns and villages are without electricity. More than 8,000 people have been evacuated and measures taken to begin cleaning the riverbanks, pumping water out of the houses, restoring power and providing clean water to the population.

“These are the worst floods in decades. Entire villages are cut off and there are hundreds of millions of euros worth of damages in these countries,” said Joe Lowry, Federation Representative for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, speaking from the disaster zone. “This flooding comes at the worst possible time for many poor agricultural villages. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers immediately swung into action, assisting the most vulnerable, distributing food, water, clothing, hygiene articles and other emergency items. The Red Cross Societies are also continuing needs assessments for the most vulnerable populations."

Ukraine Red Cross staff and volunteers have been distributing food parcels, hot meals, tea and clothing from their emergency stocks, and sheltering those who lost their houses in their own homes. One of the most urgent needs is for clean water, as well as food, hygiene articles, water filters. The proposed disaster response operation will assist the most vulnerable groups of the population, including elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and families with many children. It is likely that the Ukraine Red Cross will seek international support.

In Moldova, several districts in the north of the country have been seriously affected, among them, Brichensky and Oknitsa. Some 670 people have been evacuated, and nearly 300 houses flooded. On 26 July, 1,371 children were evacuated from summer camps in the municipality of Chisinau. With a high risk of damage to the station that provides drinking water to Chisinau, the capital, the local population is helping to strengthen local dams. In the affected regions, the drinking water supply was cut because of flooded wells. Following initial assessments, the Moldova Red Cross plans to assist 1,500 flood victims. Immediate needs include food, clothing, hygiene articles, mattresses, bed linen, blankets, and kitchen sets.

In Romania, 145 villages have been affected in the counties of Bacau, Botosani, Iasi, Maramures, Neamnt and Suceava. Five people were reported dead, and almost 12,000 people have been evacuated. According to the authorities, more than 6,700 households and 25,000 hectares of agricultural lands and pasture were flooded. Romania Red Cross staff and volunteers have been distributing food, water, beds, bed linen, and hygiene items to the affected population, mainly in Suceava county. There is a need for more water, food, blankets, sleeping bags and hygiene articles since more villages will be evacuated in the coming days. Assessments are ongoing. The Hungarian Red Cross has offered support consisting of disinfectants, detergents and food.

The floods also hit northern and eastern Slovakia where many villages in the districts of Bardejov, Stara Lubovna, Presov, Spisska Nova Ves and Gelnica were severely affected. The Slovak Red Cross responded immediately and is calling for assistance, through national and regional TV channels, radio, newspapers as well as its website, from local companies, associations and the public. Red Cross staff and volunteers have been distributing drinking water, blankets, food, clothing, disinfectants and pumps.

The International Federation has released more than 430,000 Swiss francs (USD 430,000 / 272,000 euro) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Ukrainian Red Cross in delivering immediate assistance to some 5,000 families. An emergency appeal will be issued in the coming days.