14/05/2012 – Tbilisi, 14 May: We drive on a narrow winding road up the mountain. The ride is bumpy; part of the road has been washed away by yesterday’s torrential rains. To the left and right, green meadows and walnut trees, the sky still grey with clouds. ‘Every spring, parts of Georgia are flooded and at risk from landsides. Every summer we face drought ‘explains Ketevan Lomsadze, ECHO’s project officer based in Tbilisi.
Following the alarming news in the local media and reports from the Georgian Red Cross about floods and landslides in rural areas on 13 May, we drove around 60 kilometers the following day to the northwest of Tbilisi, close to the town of Dusheti in the Mtskheta Mtianeti region. 17 villages have reportedly been affected by the floods in his part of the country. ‘This is one of the poorer areas of Georgia,’ continues Lomsadze ‘when people lose their crops or their poultry, they lose everything’. Our first stop is the small village of Baka and the poverty is immediately apparent.
Lomsdaze starts to ask a group of villagers about the impact of the floods.’ This is the epicenter ‘they assure her. We are joined by the governor, Merab Undiashuili, who also assesses where help is needed. The discussion becomes more animated. ‘We need help‘ say some ’not people who ask endless questions’.
60-year old Nazi Chokheli shows us her flooded cellar. She has spent all her life in this village. ‘We have floods every year’ she says, ‘but this is the first time my house has been so badly flooded’. The cellar was where she kept all her food supplies and major belongings. ‘Next time this happens, give the Emergency Management Department a call’ advises the governor ‘they have specialized equipment to pump out the water.‘
The governor takes us to the village of Grigoliant Kari, also said to be one of the most affected. On the way we pass a concrete bridge carried away by the floods. It was small bridge but essential for the children in the surrounding villages to reach their school.
In Grigoliant Kari we meet Lida Veshaguri whose cellar, which served as kitchen where all food supplies were kept, has also been flooded. ’Our house is the worst affected’ she tell us. The 50-year old woman shares a house with her two sisters, none of them are married.‘ Only two of us have a job in the nearby sanatorium‘ she explains.
‘The villagers have shown us the worst affected places and families. It’s tough for the families concerned, but there are no real humanitarian needs’ concludes Lomsadze. ‘But who knows what the next rains might bring. We have to keep monitoring.’
By Heinke Veit
Regional Information Officer, Amman
ECHO IN GEORGIA : In addition to providing a total of €12 million in humanitarian aid in response to the 2008 conflict, ECHO has been providing funding in the context of its disaster preparedness programme for South Caucasus since 2010.