On March 7th and 8th this year, an emergency situation was declared in 15 municipalities in central and eastern Serbia due to heavy rain on March 6th, causing flooding and landslides. In Lucani, one of the first 3 municipalities to declare a state of emergency, the rain-swollen River Bjelica floodwaters reached a height of three meters in half a day, inundating homes, roads, farmlands and factories, affecting almost half of the 24,000 households and was the most severe flooding disaster in Lucani over the past 50 years.
At the time of the flood, European Tzu Chi Volunteers were gathered at Sid, Serbia for a distribution of winter clothing and other necessities for the refugees travelling across the Balkan corridor. Upon hearing the news of the flood in central Serbia, Tzu Chi Volunteers organized a time alongside the distribution schedule and visited Lucani on March 21st.
A meeting with the Lucani mayor and disaster inspection realized that many families were forced to evacuate the recently flooded houses in Lucani and currently staying with extended families or friends. 79 households were severely affected and urgently requires help for furniture and essential daily necessities. Tzu Chi volunteers quickly compiled a list of flood victims with the assistance of the Lucani’s government and organized a cooperation with the METRO Cash and Carry chain wholesaler superstore to provide shopping vouchers in hope to alleviate the urgent difficulties of these severely affected flood victims.
Tzu Chi Volunteers visited Lucani again on April 3rd to distribute the gift vouchers for the flood victims in the presence of the Lucani Mayor, Ms. Vesna Stambolic, and a METRO representative, Mr. Borko Ristic. Ms. Vesna Stambolic: “We are grateful to Tzu Chi volunteers who have come from afar. Thank you, Tzu Chi, for willing to help us like this. Tzu Chi is very special and different from other organizations. You have come here without political agendas and you help us regardless of nationalities or religious differences. I want to thank Tzu Chi volunteers on behalf of the families who have received the help.”
Shopping vouchers were provided to the flood affected families according to the number of family members per household. A total of 1018 vouchers with a value of RSD4,412,000 Serbian Dinars (about €36,000 Euros or $41,000 USD) were distributed, benefiting 79 households with a total of 246 people.
Although Tzu Chi is foreign to the residents of Lucani, the volunteers have brought love and warmth when the residents need them the most.