Poland struggles to cope with heavy rain and floods

Published: 2 June 2010 0:00 CET

Giovanni Zambello, International Federation

A huge swathe of Poland has been hit by a series of devastating floods making Poland the country most affected by the recent heavy rain in Central Europe.

According to the government's security centre, 30,000 people have been evacuated; and a staggering 275,000 hectares and 564 cities have been affected.

The Polish Red Cross response was based on local and regional mobilization involving hundreds of staff, volunteers and members from the Red Cross branches in Malopolskie, Slaskie, Swietokrzyskie, Opolskie, Lubelskie and Podkarpackie.

The first emergency response operation saw the mobilization of rescue service teams, which carried out search and rescue operations, and provided medical assistance, working alongside local fire services and emergency medical services. More than 100 Red Cross volunteers worked tirelessly to save lives, and provide clean water and first aid. Meanwhile, the regional warehouses distributed humanitarian aid to Czestochowa, Sandomierz, Annopol, and the seriously affected Wilkow.

As the rain came down, cities near the Vistula, Odra and Warta rivers raised their flood alert status. The floods have had a tremendous impact on the lives of the people living in the affected areas, as well as on infrastructure such as telecommunications, schools and public buildings.

The Swietokrzyskie Regional Branch provided medical assistance by setting up a medical post in Sandomierz, which was able to support more than 300 evacuated people.

The humanitarian aid collected at regional branch level reached tens of tons. Disaster relief efforts were speeded up thanks to fundraising activities at a national level and large donations, such as the SMS campaign with Polsat TV and a donation of 50,000 US dollars to the Red Cross regional branch of Krakóv by the American embassy. This has meant the Red Cross has been able to respond to the humanitarian needs of the affected people in Malopolskie.

In additiona, Muszynianka, a bottled water manufacture, provided spring water, which was distributed by local Red Cross volunteers. Operations have also started in the central part of Poland after the dam on the Vistula river collapsed.

The Polish Red Cross found the capacity of its regional branches was seriously affected by the floods. Fortunately, the first international assistance has arrived in Krakóv from the German Red Cross.

So far, the Polish Red Cross has contributed a several hundred volunteers, staff and members to the relief operation.