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Floods in Ukraine - hundreds still homeless four months after the disaster

Países
Ucrania
Fuentes
IFRC
Fecha de publicación

Magdalena Slastushinskaya

Hundreds of people are still homeless more than four months after flooding that devastated 19 districts in western Ukraine as well as the southern republic of Crimea, leaving at least two people dead, affecting more than 5,000 and destroying 700 hectares of farmland as well as hundreds of buildings.

"The floods affected mostly poor homes," explains Aline Sattarova, mother of two small children, whose house was washed away by the flooding. "When we built our house twenty years ago, we had no money to purchase bricks so we made clay walls and a clay roof, as many poor people do here."

In some areas, heavy rains and storms caused the water to spill over local dam and dykes. Sixty-two-year-old Olga Gnatyuk, Aline's neighbour, relives that horrible morning.

"I woke up to a strange noise and couldn't realise what was happening. I called my son and he tried to go outside but the water had already reached one meter."

Olga points to the water mark on the grey wall of her terrace - the only part of the house that withstood the flood waters. "We pushed together to hold the door, I prayed God to save us. The door broke and the water gushed inside. I thought we would die and I fainted.

When I came to, I was alive, lying on the ground at the top of the hill - thank God that we live just next to a hill. My son was next to me looking at water carrying away our calves and chickens, goods and sheds, ruining the walls of my room, then the kitchen and my son's room. We lost everything in one day."

Olga Gnatyuk cries, drying her tears with a handkerchief. "We saved blankets and some clothes but we will never be able to use them - the water brought a lot of sand and though we keep on washing them again and again, it doesn't help."

When the disaster struck, hundreds of Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers from the Crimea, Ivano-Frankovsk and Chernovets branches were mobilized immediately. They were the first to arrive on the scene, to distribute essential relief including food and drinking water, bed linen, hygiene articles, clothes and shoes to flood victims and to hospitals in six districts.

"We filled the van with dry mattresses and bed linen and went there," says Galina Ivanovna, the Chairwoman of the Belogorsk Regional Branch of the Ukrainian Red Cross. "Our first priority was to identify the needs. On our way to the villages we listened to news on the radio but there was not enough information and we didn't know just how big the disaster was."

"I have three small children and I felt absolutely helpless when the water came," recalls Abkerim Kerimov, who lives in the neighbouring village. "We thank God for sending us the Red Cross team who brought us mattresses, food and water. We couldn't survive without this aid."

Today, hundreds of people are still homeless. Affected people expected to have access to some shelter immediately after the disaster, but the local government is not able to provide shelter to all.

Now, with winter approaching and temperatures falling under zero, flood victims are going back to what is left of their houses, to repair and rebuild them. The walls of every house in the affected area are cracked, the window panes are broken and there are holes in the floor.

"The first priority for us now is to dry the abandoned places. The air inside is still very humid and the smell of dampness is everywhere," says Adabzatove Emine, mother of three 11-, 8- and 3-year-old boys.

"My sons are ashamed to go to school in low quality second hand clothes with no school bags, but I insist they go anyway, since in school they can at least be warm. My biggest concern is my younger one, I keep him close to my body but he is always cold".

So far, the Ukrainian Red Cross has assisted more than 2600 people (nearly 1,000 families) in seven districts. Plans are now being drawn up for prolonged assistance to 80 families, in Crimea (including blankets, winter clothing and footwear).

In July, the International Federation released 98,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Emergency Fund to support the Ukrainian Red Cross relief operation.