U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
BUREAU FOR HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE (BHR)
OFFICE OF U.S. FOREIGN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (OFDA)
Fact Sheet #4 Fiscal Year (FY) 1997
Background: Between July
6-9, torrential rains fell in the eastern portions of the Czech Republic
(Moravia, Silesia, and eastern Bohemia) and in southern Poland (Katowice, Opole, and
Walbrzych). The heavy rains resulted in widespread flooding of the Oder, Morava, Elbe, Upa,
Jizera, Wisla, Nysa Klodzka, and Vistula rivers, which forced thousands to flee their homes, badly
damaged the transportation and economic infrastructure, destroyed croplands, and contaminated
water supplies over a wide regional area. Flooding also occurred along rivers in Germany,
Hungary, and Slovakia. On July 9, U.S. Ambassador Jenonne R. Walker declared a disaster in the
Czech Republic and U.S. Ambassador to Poland Nicholas Rey declared a disaster in Poland.
Numbers Affected: The floods
were the worst natural disaster to hit central Europe in decades.
In the Czech Republic, 39 people were killed, 2,500 people injured, and 50,000 people were
evacuated from their homes. In Poland, 55 people were confirmed dead and 162,500 people
forced to evacuate.
Current Situation: As flood
waters recede in the 16 affected districts in the Czech Republic, local
populations are facing an extensive clean-up and a significant outbreak of mosquitoes. The
International Federation of the Red Cross estimates that some 16,000 people are still in temporary
shelters. The damage from the flood waters has affected urban centers, factories, industrial
plants, public buildings, homes, farms, and cropland. The start of the new school
year will be postponed for many towns and villages in affected areas. Total economic losses in
the Czech Republic are estimated at close to $2 billion.
Floods inundated more than 5,900 square
kilometers (km) in the southwestern areas of Poland,
affecting over 86 cities and towns, 875 villages, and 450,000 farms. The flooding destroyed 110
medical facilities, 250 schools, 140 bridges, and 1,600 km of roads. Of an estimated 162,500
people moved from their homes, more than 37,000 are still living in temporary accommodations.
The Polish Red Cross continues to identify the areas where relief is most urgently required and
will continue to distribute emergency relief supplies and medicines at least through the end of
August. Preliminary damage in Poland is estimated at more than $2 billion.
U.S. Government (USG) Assistance: BHR/OFDA
has provided $100,000 each to the Czech Red
Cross and the Polish Red Cross for the transport and distribution of humanitarian relief supplies
including tents, blankets, drinking water, hygiene items, and emergency food supplies. On July
19, BHR/OFDA sent an assessment team, including two representatives from the Department of
Defense (DOD), to both countries to visit the affected areas and assess
humanitarian needs. The team worked in coordination with the Embassies and USAID missions,
Czech and Polish government representatives, local relief organizations, and international donors
and relief workers. The team returned to the U.S. on July 31 and presented its findings to
BHR/OFDA. The team found that in both countries the emergency phase is over and assistance
should now focus on recovery and reconstruction, especially in the economic sector, including
small businesses, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The
team also noted that both nations should consider a more unified national command and control
structure, including the use of common radio frequencies in their disaster preparedness.
In the health sector, the team originally
recommended that hepatitis A vaccine be provided to
vulnerable groups in flood-affected areas, per request from the Polish Ministry of Health.
However, a large donation of the vaccine was provided by the pharmaceutical company Merck,
Sharp, and Dohme. Instead of providing more vaccine, BHR/OFDA is assisting with the
transport of the donated vaccines to the Czech Republic and Poland. BHR/OFDA is also funding
a $100,000 grant to Project Hope for the procurement of reagent kits for chemical and biological
testing of municipal water supplies. DOD provided humanitarian daily rations (HDRs) and meals
ready to eat (MREs) for flood victims, as well as in-kind contributions of four-wheel drive
vehicles, cots, sleeping bags, blankets, bedsheets, and sleeping pads.
Total OFDA Assistance (to date). . .
. . . . . . . . . . . $412,493
DOD Assistance (to date) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,269,500
Total USG Assistance (to date) . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,681,993