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Moravia recovering from floods, Roma from Žilina area of Nový Jičín afflicted

Nový Jičín, 30.6.2009 8:43, (ROMEA)

Moravia is now recovering from the destructive flooding of the past few days. Six Roma families in the Žilina area of the town of Nový Jičín are in a tough situation. They spent two days at the local school before being moved out of it last Thursday, according to Kateřina Švidrnochová of the Society of Roma in Moravia.

"I have been receiving desperate telephone calls all afternoon from Veronika Kačová of Žilina in Nový Jičín, one of the most afflicted areas of the current flooding," Švidrnochová told Romea.cz. About 70 Roma were housed in the local school for two days. The worst-afflicted have been offered substitute housing. The others have returned to their original residences, some at considerable risk.

"According to the information available to me, ‘white’ families were also housed at the school until Wednesday evening, but during the course of the next afternoon they were moved into flats,” Švidrnochová said. According to her, panic is spreading among the Roma families that they are being discriminated against as opposed to the white residents. “In my opinion, the municipality and the state bodies are doing what they can, but nevertheless it is important someone comes to speak directly to the Roma here, to calm their fears, and to make sure the partial resolution of this catastrophic situation is legal.”

Local Roma are suffering from the traumatizing experience, as are all those afflicted. The effort to save their own lives and those of their children and loved ones is a horrible memory for them. “It is hard for me to talk about it – you have a large family and you do not know whom to save first. The concrete flew away as easily as you throw away a matchstick,” Naděžda Kačová told Romea.cz. “I cannot return to my flat, I have to wait for the structural engineer to issue a written report. I am concerned about landslides and that the structural integrity of the building has been violated.” She is now living with her husband and 10 children in substitute housing.

Pavel Spáčil complained that the firefighters and police did not take action. “Neither the firefighters nor the police came when we called - they told us we had to take care of ourselves. Some people fled when the water was knee-high, but then it rose and no one could make it through the doors. Milan Kotlár and two Czechs helped us. I handed the children out to them," Spáčil told Romea.cz. Another Romani woman described a similar experience of firefighters being unwilling to assist.

On the other hand, Milan Kotlár, whose family was one of the worst afflicted and whose flat has been completely destroyed, praised the help of both firefighters and police. He also thanked the housing and social department of the town of Nový Jičín. “The water exploded all at once, it was past my waist inside the house. Some of the children managed to run up the stairs to the landing in the hallway. I, my wife and the other two children remained in the flat. Due to the influx of the water, the front door could not be opened, we were practically imprisoned. When the water was almost up to the window sills, I realized I could probably get my wife and children out through the window. I opened the window, another wave of water rushed in, I got my wife through the window and handed the children out to her and they all ran out to the road, where the water was flowing freely,” Kotlár says. He then helped carry out the other children and his neighbors.

Those afflicted say they are most concerned there will be more rain and that there is a danger the levels of the Jičínka will rise further. The crisis staff of the city of Ostrava has set up a crisis line, 950 730 730, which anyone can call who has doubts as to the whereabouts of their friends and family or who has questions about the ongoing situation in the flooded areas. If people need more information on the hygienic situation, such as when potable water will be available, they can call the Regional Hygienic Station on 556 770 383.

To contribute to those afflicted by the floods, you can send money to bank account 72027202/0300, which has been set up by the Člověk v tísni (People in Need) foundation. You can also send a donor SMS in the form "DMS POVODNE09" to the number 87777.

ADRA is taking advantage of its emergency warehouses in Frýdek-Místek and Prague to provide volunteers with materials and equipment needed to clean the mud and destroyed furnishings out of the houses. The work plan will be coordinated with the town and its districts according to existing disaster plans. ADRA is also providing financial support to the tune of CZK 100 000 during the initial response phase from its special financial support project ADRA ÚL, intended for extraordinary events.

Roughly 50 soldiers began work on Friday in the Žilina and Bludovice neighborhoods of Nový Jičín. They built a floating bridge, as the flood had brought existing bridges down and the necessary equipment must be brought in to work on the destroyed housing, ČTK reports Josef Gabzdyl, spokesperson for the Nový Jičín town hall, as saying on Friday. The Army is able to allocate up to 1 000 soldiers to help the afflicted area.

Initial estimates said the flood Wednesday did severe damage to roughly 450 properties in Nový Jičín. Most were destroyed in the quarters of Žilina, where the Jičínka creek caused problems, and Bludovice, where the Zrzávka creek caused the greatest damage.

The town is also setting up a flood donation account. Dozens of firms and citizens who want to help those afflicted are getting in touch. "I thank everyone for their declarations of solidarity, now it is important to manage the most extensive damage and to help people, many of whom are undergoing post-traumatic shock," said Mayor Ivan Týle.

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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