VIPs visit as Bulgarian village heads for first anniversary of flood tragedy

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov visited the southern Bulgarian village of Biser as it headed for the first anniversary on February 6 2013 of the flood that swept through the area when a reservoir wall breached, leading to 10 deaths, the destruction of close to 50 homes and inundation of large areas of farmland.

Of the 50 houses destroyed, 32 have been rebuilt. Work is proceeding on a further two and the rest are to be rebuilt in the spring of 2013.

The Biser flood disaster in February 2012 led the launching of a number of charity fundraising campaigns, including by the Bulgarian Red Cross, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Tsvetanov, visiting Biser, said that he hoped the Bulgarian Red Cross campaign would be renewed so that the house-building project could be completed. European Union funds would be used to build new infrastructure, he said.

Zlatka Vulkova, mayor of Biser, was quoted by local media as saying that the flood disaster had “changed” people in the village. “It was a terrible experience,” she said. Every time snow and rain fell, memories of the trauma of February 2012 returned.

BNT reported that one local resident recalling the horror after the Ivanovo reservoir wall breached: “Water, terror as people were screaming. What to remember? Falling walls, falling houses”.

Biser at the time of the February 2012 flood. Photo: BNT

The flood tragedy led authorities to order a large-scale investigation of the state of dams and reservoirs in Bulgaria. At the time, severe winter weather conditions, including huge snowfalls, had filled many bodies of water and, after the Biser incident, some were substantially drained to prevent repeats of the situation elsewhere.

However, to date no responsibility has been apportioned for what happened in Biser where, like several other places, there was a lack of clarity about ownership and control of the reservoir.

Residents of Biser continued to demand that those responsible should face punishment.

Meanwhile, according to a report by BNT, while people in Biser had been given assistance, people in the village of Dinevo where flooding also had caused significant damage said that they had been overlooked by the state.

“We got no assistance. We only were sent some clothes that we passed on to people. Committees looked at the situation in the village, but only families were granted 325 leva (about 162 euro),” Dimitriya Zheleva, mayor of Dinevo, said.

(Main photo, of Tsvetan Tsvetanov: Council of the EU)





The Sofia Globe staff

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