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Bulgaria mourns the victims of the big flood

The state reports losses running to millions, people want to know who is to blame for the flooding and the destroyed roads and collapsed bridges

| updated on 9/8/23 2:26 PM
Photo: BTA

Today is a national day of mourning in memory of the four people who lost their lives in the big flood along the Southern portion of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast on 5 September. The floodwaters took the lives of four people – two men and two women – one of them the chairperson of the regional court in Tsarevo, judge Maria Moskova, and her daughter, veterinarian Daniela Yordanova. Together with a man, they were swept away by the tidal wave as they were trying to cross a bridge which collapsed under their vehicle. The body of one more victim was fished out of the sea – a pedestrian who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kosti village
Today, all national institutions are flying the national flag at half-mast

The water has now withdrawn but in the regions affected, people are continuing the efforts to save their few surviving possessions. For the purpose, heavy machinery and more pairs of hands are needed so as to clear away the trees and the deposits left by the floodwater. Help came from the government and from volunteers, but they came up against a great deal of red tape. In the villages of Tsarevo, Kosti, Rezovo, hit hardest by the disaster, people were left without any drinking water, the floodwater destroyed roads and pulled down bridges, cutting people off from the world. In Tsaervo alone, twelve bridges have been damaged. At its sitting yesterday, the cabinet approved over 63 million Leva (EUR 32 million) for repair work and restoration, and for compensations for the damages inflicted by the flooding.

The money is from the reserve under the 2023 National Budget Act

Bulgarian Red Cross volunteers have been in Tsarevo and Kosti for three days, handing out packages of durable food and food for direct consumption, as well as mineral water because the tap water there is unfit for drinking.  

“The organization on the ground is very good, each of the institutions is helping, depending on their competencies, while the Bulgarian Red Cross is part of the unified rescue network at the crisis centre in Tsarevo municipality,” says Violeta Radeva, director of Bulgarian Red Cross-Burgas:

“The problems are mostly connected with infrastructure, an inspection is currently underway but there are no people who are destitute. The needs are yet to be assessed, our team remains on site, so do the social assistance services to see what needs to be done as a matter of urgency. When we talked to the families affected by the calamity we found out it is mostly the household appliances and the furniture that has been destroyed. We also have a team ready for psychological and social assistance and we shall help where help is needed. 

We shall see what needs will emerge at a later stage. The costs of the help will be estimated later. We are constantly advising people not to drink the water because it is a health risk. The damages are for the locals as well as for the tourists. Their cars were washed away, the caravans of the tourists at campsites were also washed away at sea, but there are other services working on these technical problems. People say the disaster itself was awful and very scary, but they are glad to have survived, because there are people who lost their lives. That is their philosophy – possessions can be restored, but when a life is lost it is for good.”

When there are huge natural calamities, like the flood on the Southern portion of the coastline, hundreds of animals get washed away by the flood waters and die. Environmentalists are raising the alarm over dead fish, pigs, deer, and many destitute turtles. 

But it is not just forest animals, farm animals and pets were also killed in people’s homes – cows, dogs and cats swept away by the tidal and they stood no chance of survival. “It is difficult to talk at such a tragic time, we have people who lost their lives, even someone directly engaged with saving animals like veterinarian Dr. Daniela Yordanova who was committed to the cause of helping stray cats and dogs,” says animal advocate Yavor Gechev:

“When we talk about animals we usually mean two groups – animals that are a human’s companion like dogs, cats, rabbits, and usually they have owners. The stray animals fall into this group. But the problem isn’t so big for them, because they are small and easier to transport. For farm animals things are more difficult. To evacuate a small cow farm, for example, you will need transport and people who know how to handle animals. A big animal, if it panics, and that is exactly what happens when a disaster hits, is a danger to the people if they do not know what to do at that precise moment. It is the same now as with the 2014 flood in Mizia when many animals were killed. Back then, a woman opened her farm and took in the animals. It is the same now, no steps have been taken to evacuate the animals and that makes me really sad. 

There is one more problem – when people evacuate they often leave the animals behind, in their homes. They even leave dogs tied up and that literally means condemning them to death. But it only takes 20 seconds to untie the animals and give them a chance of staying alive. Nothing was done for the animals at a central level. I think every farm, every municipality should have crisis plans that clearly regulate what is to be done with people, but also with animals – how to evacuate them, how to transport them, where to accommodate them and what to do once the disaster is over. The only people trained to work during a disaster are the people from the Bulgarian Red Cross, from Fire Safety and Civil Protection, and some of the municipalities that have disaster rescue units, unfortunately they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.”

Translated and posted by Milena Daynova

Photos: BTA, Bulgarian Red Cross-Burgas, Animal Hope Varna Foundation

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