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European Commission - Press release

Member States react swiftly to Bulgaria’s request for assistance for fighting floods and harsh winter conditions

Brussels, 08 February 2012 - Despite dealing with severe winter conditions at home, European countries have responded swiftly to Bulgaria’s request for assistance to fight floods and prevent further damage from the severe winter that has engulfed much of the country. Several dams are overflowing in Bulgaria due to the heavy snow of the past few days. On Monday, 6 February, a wall of the Ivanovo dam broke and the released water inundated the village of Biser in South Eastern Bulgaria. Other towns in the region are also in danger of flooding.

The Bulgarian authorities activated the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism on February 7th, expressing the need for 80,000 sandbags, geotextile (a material used to reinforce river dykes and reduce water corrosion effects) and 20 winterised tents that could shelter up to 160 people. Italy promptly offered winterised tents while Poland offered sandbags and geotextile. Hungary has also offered to provide sandbags. Other countries who participate in the Mechanism are considering potential further offers. The Commission’s Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) has facilitated the coordination between the affected country and the offering ones. The Commission has also received a request from Italy to co-finance the transport of its assistance to Bulgaria.

“This immediate response to a call for help by Bulgaria is a tangible expression of European solidarity with an affected country. Even more impressive is that the offers of assistance come at a moment when both Italy and Poland are struggling with harsh winter conditions themselves. At a time when Bulgaria faces the risk of more serious flooding, the sandbags, tents and GEO-textile will contribute significantly to preventing further damage and suffering,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the EU Commissioner for crisis response.

Yesterday she visited the flood-affected areas in Bulgaria together with an expert from the MIC specialised in flooding and civil protection in extremely cold conditions. They joined the Bulgarian authorities in evaluating how the EU can best contribute to mitigating the consequences of the snowfall, extremely low temperatures and flooding.

In her contacts with the Bulgarian President, Government representatives and the local authorities, Commissioner Georgieva stressed on the need to plan and prepare for the effects of snow melting and the risk of further floods. “Prevention is everyone’s business,” she underlined.

The MIC continues to follow closely the evolution of the period of extreme winter which is currently affecting most of Europe, killing more than 350 people across the continent and triggering a state of emergency in a number of EU Member States. The Commission stands ready to facilitate the exchange of information and the provision of assistance among the countries participating in the European Civil Protection Mechanism

Background

The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response among 31 European states (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The participating countries pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world. When activated, the Mechanism coordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union. The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).

Since its creation in 2001, the Mechanism has been activated for disasters in Member States (like the forest fires in Portugal, floods in the Balkans in 2010 and explosion at a naval base in Cyprus in 2011) but also worldwide, including recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and Japan.

For more information

Commissioner Georgieva's website:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/georgieva/index_en.htm

The European Commission's humanitarian aid:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

Contacts :

David Sharrock (+32 2 296 89 09)

Irina Novakova (+32 2 295 75 17)


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