Bulgaria: Floods Information Bulletin No. 1
This Bulletin (no. 01/05) is being issued for information only, and reflects the status of the situation and information available at this time . The Federation is not seeking funding or other assistance from donors for this operation at this time.
As a result of heavy rains and storms at the end of May and beginning of June (25 May to 10 June), nine regions in the north of Bulgaria - with a population of some two million people - have been affected. Three persons have been reported dead. A state of emergency was declared in the municipalities of Ruse, Dve Mogili, Lukovit, Pravec, Mezdra, Roman, Svoge and in Sofia. As the water levels of the Iskar, Vit, Osam, and Struma rivers rose rapidly and dam capacity in the region reached a critical point, authorities initiated controlled draining of Studena, Jovkovci, Aleksandar Stamboliiski dams, resulting in infrastructure damage to roads, railways, electro and water supply systems and telecommunications, as well as to personal property: flo oded basements, houses and farms.
By 13 June, a number of houses in the municipalities of Mezdra, Iskar, Pernik and Svoge in Sofia region were still flooded. Although water levels were slowly decreasing, the critical level of water in the Iskar Dam may result in further controlled draining and damage in the surrounding area. Additional reinforcement of dikes is needed.
The mountain river Iskar burst its banks on 7 June, flooding the Novi Iskar region. Underground water inundated basements destroying food stores and reserves; poorly maintained rain water management channels have worsened the situation. Agricultural land and crops, roads and the sewage system have been damaged. Landslides on agricultural land are also threatening houses in the area and have blocked some roads. The last flooding in the area was more than 40 years ago and capacity for coping in such a situation is low. Thirteen civil protection units from four nonaffected regions were mobilised to assist in the affected area. State and municipal assessment teams have been created to survey the situation. The village of Jiten was hardest hit, with 250 persons affected out of a mostly elderly population of 670. Some 70 handicapped persons live in the village. Most of the 250 persons left their damaged homes and are living with relatives and neighbours. Most of the flooded houses are not insured and the probability that any damage compensation will be paid is limited. Approximately 100 patients from the state psychiatric hospital have been evacuated by government rescue teams. Civil protection and fire brigade are active in the area, pumping water from flooded basements and houses. Some 35% of households use septic tanks, which are now filled by underground water, making normal usage of toilets impossible. Drinking water supplies are threatened, and local authorities have informed the population not to use normal systems until further notice. With the lack of access to safe drinking water, people are buying mineral water, which is placing an extra burden on an essentially elderly population with a very low income. Stagnating water levels mean that there is a problem with mosquitoes and the local authorities have contacted the Ministry of Health to look for solutions before the summer heat and humidity exacerbates the situation further.
In Mirovjane village, rising underground water levels and water released from the nearby dam has damaged agricultural land and therefore income sources and future harvests, as well as food reserves. Although no major health or shelter problems exist, the basements of 40 houses have been flooded. The drinking water and electricity supplies and roads are functioning and not at risk. Civil protection and fire brigade are pumping water from flooded basements. Drainage problems exist but not as a direct result of the flooding but as an existing problem.
In Izgrev village, families have moved out of flooded homes to host families. Agricultural land is badly affected through pollution from flooding of septic tanks. The drinking water supply has been affected. In the area of Slavovci and Kumaritsa, the Red Cross assessment mission on 15 June found that there was no serious threat to the local population in terms of security or shelter. Affected families are already returning to their homes as water has receded although humidity in basements remains a problem. Despite warnings not to drink from polluted drinking water supplies, some families did not receive this information and continued to use contaminated sources. Three cases of stomach complaints have been identified and been directed to local clinics. There was no evidence of initiatives to disinfect basement water or prevent the spread of communicable diseases. The flooding of septic tanks has contaminated agricultural land and normal toilet systems were not working for some time.
Local authority and state initiatives
The State Agency Civil Protection, Fire Brigade, Police and other disaster partners have been coordinating actions in response to the crisis, and from the beginning of the alert, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been in daily contact with the Crisis Management Centre of the agency. The regional branches of the Bulgarian Red Cross have also been critical in monitoring developments in the communities where they work. On 9 June, a meeting of the Standing Commission for Protecting the Population authorized support in an amount of six million leva (approximately 4 million EURO) for the emergency and rehabilitation phase and immediate needs. In coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the state agency for civil protection has requested assistance from the Euro- Atlantic Coordination Centre and the European Union for technical assistance and financial support. In response to this request, several countries have announced their willingness to assist:
1. Sweden sent 500 family tents, 35 inflatable rubber boats and 50,000 sand bags.
2. Austria is going to send 50,000 sand bags.
3. Malta is sending sand bags, which will be used for embankment construction.
Germany, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Estonia declared their willingness to assist the affected regions as well and are looking into possibilities for in-kind support.
The Standing Governmental Commission asked the Bulgarian Red Cross for assistance and the Civil Protection agency is continuing to provide updated figures to the Bulgarian Red Cross.
Red Cross and Red Crescent action
Coordination and Cooperation
Regional branches of the Bulgarian Red Cross have been in daily contact with the relevant authorities and the civil protection agency, to monitor the situation and to develop their response initiatives. The Sofia regional branch is a member of the Local Standing Commission for protection of the population and has taken part in all coordination meetings relating to the floods.
The Rousse Regional Branch of the Bulgarian Red Cross has been distributing relief items - bedlinen, mattresses, shoes, clothes, blankets - in the most affected villages in Ruse region: Baniska, Karanvarbovka and others, from the newly established inter-regional warehouse of the Bulgarian Red Cross covering the north-central regions.
A Federation-run Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT) training is currently being held in Bulgaria in the region affected by the flooding. The President and Director General of Bulgarian Red Cross requested the assistance of the RDRT members in assessing the situation. Experienced RDRT members from neighbouring national societies, who are facilitating the course, conducted an assessment mission to the affected area on 11 June, together with the Disaster Management colleague from the Bulgarian Red Cross. A water and sanitation expert from Geneva - also a course facilitator - joined the assessment team. The team visited the villages of Jiten, Mirovjane, Izgrev, Slavovci and Kumarica in the affected area in the municipality of Novi Iskar. In Jiten village , the assessment team met with the mayor and deputy mayor of Novi Iskar region as well as the head of the Civil Protection in Sofia region. On 15 June, the assessment continued, with the course participants conducting assessment missions in four groups to affected villages in Novi Iskar (Jiten, Mirovjane, Izgrev, Slavovci and Kumaritsa). Information from these assessments confirmed previous information (see previous section), updated on the latest initiatives by the fire brigade and civil protection concentrating on infrastructure protection and repair (continuing pumping of basement flood water, further protection of houses by placing sand bags and provision of earth by trucks, damage assessment by engineers and technicians).
The Bulgarian Red Cross is applying to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for an allocation of approximately CHF 80,000 in order to respond to the immediate need for hygiene parcels, blankets, bed linen and kitchen sets.
For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:
- In Bulgaria: Bulgarian Red Cross, Jassen Slivensky, Disaster Management Coordinator, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: +359 281 64898
- In Regional Delegation: Slobodanka Curic, Regional Disaster Management Coordinator, email: email@example.com, phone: +387 65 665 747,
- In Geneva: Erja Reinikainen, Regional Officer, Europe Department, Phone:+41 22 730 43 19, Fax:+41 22 733 03 95, Email:Erja.Reinikainen@ifrc.org
All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's) in Disaster Relief and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (Sphere) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. For longer-term programmes in this or other countries or regions, please refer to the Federation's Annual Appeal. For support to or for further information concerning Federation programmes or operations in this or other countries, or for national society profiles, please also access the Federation's website at http://www.ifrc.org.
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