Floods in Italy: the chaos of the victims in search of little comfort

Around her makeshift bed, Ludmila makes sure that all is well. The 60-year-old is one of dozens of victims welcomed into the gymnasium of Castel Bolognese, a city ravaged by floods in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.

“I hope to be able to go home in a month but I don’t know”. Between the despair of having to leave her home and anger at not being warned enough by local authorities, the Ukrainian-born woman prefers to give only her first name.

Arriving Wednesday with her 97-year-old husband in this large room converted into a hostel, Lyudmila finds herself alone today: “We took him to the hospital, because we can’t keep someone his age here”, she explains to AFP Yes, installed on his bed.

Since then, she has been trying to get through her days somehow, arranging her own little private space while waiting to be able to return to her home and then see the extent of the damage caused by the devastating floods of the past few days , in which 14 people were killed. in this region of northern Italy.

“We were stuck there with no water, no food. I called the fire brigade, the police, they brought her (her husband, editor’s note) here” before taking her to the hospital, says this grateful mother, who Arrived in Italy 16 years ago and whose daughter lives “under the bombs” in Ukraine.

– “The water is coming!” ,

Purple sweater, joggers and sneakers on the back – because “it’s still more comfortable” -, the sexagenarian is about to spend another night in this makeshift hostel, where two rows of about thirty mattresses are lined up.

A few beds away, Alfonso Brocchi and Yolanda Soglia are talking. These two seventy year olds were also surprised by the rising of the water at midnight.

“At 3 in the morning, the neighbor upstairs called me and said + Alfonso, come upstairs, the water is coming +”, recalls, sitting on his bed, the 76-year-old retiree, who came to help his neighbor Iolanda were suffering from muscular dystrophy.

“He’s disabled, so I went to see him and set him up on two chairs” so that his feet wouldn’t fall into the water, before firefighters came to collect them three hours later.

Around them in the gymnasium, other victims would settle down in a few hours, but also, on camp beds set up a little further, firefighters who would take advantage of a short night’s sleep before resuming service at ‘dawn’.

“There is also a base camp for volunteers, for civil protection, for the armed forces, who can rest,” explains Stefania Corfiati, a volunteer social worker recently arrived from Bologna, about fifty kilometers from the places Was.

On this rainy day, the gym entrance where water bottles, sandwiches and pastries are kept is always full. Volunteers and other firefighters rub shoulders, eat, discuss in an almost constant flow.

In the hostel, the hubbub of rescue workers and volunteers reverberates late into the evening, lulling the dozens of victims in the enclosure to sleep.

– “Like Home” –

On Monday evening, the city of 10,000 residents conducted a preventive evacuation of about 200 people before the city was flooded the next day.

To reach the gymnasium, it is now a mud-covered town that must be crossed first. Dirty water washed away everything, sowed desolation.

“After this disaster, it is important that everyone feels at home here,” defends Paola Barilli, who oversees about sixty volunteers in the city.

Here, “everyone is welcome, even the animals!”, says this energetic fifty-year-old. As proof, she wants to welcome a family who came with nine cats.

At the entrance to the complex, paper towels, blankets and cloth bags brought by local residents are piled along the wall.

As the day progresses, the rows of boxes gradually move towards the middle of the room – everyone hoping to live “as normal a life as possible”.

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