Floods leave trail of destruction in Eastern Romania

Vatican City, 21 July 2005 - As the heavy rains that pounded much of eastern Romania in recent weeks began to subside a few days ago, Caritas Romania has been able to get a clearer picture of the scale of destruction and subsequent needs in the flood-ravaged counties of Bacau, Vrancea, Galati, and Braila. Damage by all accounts is widespread.

According to a government report, 110 villages and towns were affected, with 2,364 houses completely destroyed and nearly 10,000 flooded. Families whose houses were not destroyed still lost most of their belongings, including furniture and winter food stocks. Damages to around 95,000 hectares of agricultural fields and losses to livestock were also reported - a situation that will have serious consequences for a people largely dependent on farming.

The national authorities evacuated upwards of 14,000 people from flooded areas; around 6,000 evacuees have not been able to return to their houses yet. The army has also begun flying in food and other essential items to isolated villages in the mountains. However, Caritas Romania reports that many people have not yet received assistance and are in dire need of food.

Health authorities have started vaccinating people against typhoid and hepatitis, and work is under way to remove animal carcasses to stave off epidemic outbreaks.

Caritas Romania's relief activities are coordinated by the national emergency programme coordinator and implemented by the diocesan Caritas of Iasi, where the affected counties are located. Operational teams, responsible for identifying needs, selecting beneficiaries, and distributing relief items, have been set up and are in contact with the local authorities, as well as Catholic and Orthodox parishes, in each county.

In Bacau county, Caritas has managed to distribute an initial 210 relief packages (food, blankets, and hygiene kits) in the village of Helegiu, and 500 packages in the villages of Comanesti, Sublaroaia, Straja, Goioasa, Preluci, and Ciobanus. Around 600 packages were transported to Vadu Rosca - one of the hardest hit villages in Vrancea county, while an additional 500 packages were distributed in Namesti and Namaloasa.

During the coming days, Caritas plans to get out more food packages, including ones specifically for babies, hygienic kits, and blankets. A team of nurses and students of medicine will visit people in the affected areas to support local doctors, and assist in distributing medicines.

Caritas Romania intends to assess needs for the coming winter months and for longer-term rehabilitation work, including the reconstruction of houses and restoration of agricultural fields. Caritas Romania appreciates the support and solidarity shown by many Caritas member organisations during this emergency.

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in 200 countries and territories.