Monday, November 7, 2011

Deadly Flooding Forces Genoa To Its Knees

By Eugenia Durante
Senior Reporter
MILAN, Italy – It was Friday afternoon. I was having a coffee at the university bar, ready to spend a boring and rainy afternoon in Milan studying and working on my translations, when my boyfriend told me, “Hey, it seems like it is raining cats and dogs in Genoa!” I laughed and told him, “I know, it is always like that. We are used to huge rains.”

I couldn’t imagine what was really going on in my hometown.
When I got to the school’s library and switched on my computer, I felt paralysed. The online front pages of La Repubblica, the country’s main newspaper, were filled with pictures of Genoa literally sunken by meters of water and mud.
After a really bad rain, one of the many rivers which cross the city overflowed its banks and an extraordinary amount of water poured into the streets, breaking into houses and shops and sweeping away cars and debris.
I immediately thought about my parents and closest friends, who work and study in the city center. I tried to call them on the phone, but the communication had been cutoff.
I couldn’t imagine how bad the situation was – it seemed to me unreal. I watched the pictures of the familiar streets where I grew up, now completely covered by mud.
On the paper’s website, I watched horrifying videos of people trying to get out of cars, literally swimming in the water, some of them trying not to be carried away by the current. I watched buses and cars floating on the streets like toys, crashing into each other and breaking into shops and houses.
I read about missing people and about six victims – two of them children – and it seemed to me even more unreal. I finally managed to call my parents and friends and check on them. They were all fine, but I wasn’t completely relieved.
It is not easy to realize how painful seeing your town in such a catastrophic situation can be. I don’t feel particularly devoted to my city, but watching Genoa drowning under rain and mud has been extremely shocking.
I simply found it hard to believe that six people had lost their lives in such a horrible, unexpected way. Sphresa Dajla, 28, was carried away by the flood while trying to save her daughters Janissa and Gioia Dajla, 1 and 8 years old, La Repubblica reported. They all died.
Eugenia Durante / youthjournalism.org
The center of Genoa, Italy,
before the recent flooding
The paper also reported that Serena Costa, 19 years old, died while trying to get her brother home from school after the start of the deluge. Angela Chiaramonte, 40, lost her life while getting her son home from school, too, together with Evelina Pietranera, 50.
What has been called “the massacre of the innocents” aroused a harsh polemic towards the municipality’s decision not to close schools, although the state of alert had been given.
Many people claim that the authorities are directly responsible for the victims because they didn’t take sufficient safety measures. Marta Vincenzi, Genoa’s mayor, is still defending her decision, arguing that closing schools would have just put many parents on the streets, taking children to their grandparents or babysitters while going to work.
Genoa Attorney General Vincenzo Scolastico stabbed at the property speculation and the dangerous building construction too close to the river that affects the city.
Moreover, cuts in financial aid to Italy’s towns from the national budget drastically reduced available funds for road repairs and projects to ensure environmental safety weighs into the number of victims, too.
It is not the first time Genoa has had to tackle the plague of floods.
Last year, the district of Sestri Ponente was badly hit by a flood which caused major damages to houses and businesses.
Similar problems arose in 1992 and 1993, but the worst took place in 1970, when two rivers overran their banks and Genoa’s city center literally drowned. It was not very different from the current one, if truth be told.
So why is it so hard to learn from the past? How many victims must the floods claim before authorities take serious measures to minimize damages caused by natural disasters?
The answer is still blowing in the wind. But now, it will take a very long time for Genoa to rise again, and it will be mostly impossible to heal all the scars – for four families, at least. 

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