Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Flood

It seems impossible today, 20° outsied and beautiful sunshine, to think that 3 days ago it looked like this in Genoa…

We were warned that severe weather conditions on their way and advised to stay at home. Of course nobody did. The schools were open, buses running, people going to work as normal. Marco went down to work and phoned back to say that yes it was raining but nothing worse than a normal horrible rainy day so I decided to take Eve to school as usual. I’d been home for about an hour and as the rain got worse and worse I got more and more worried and after about two hours I braved the car and drove back to school to get her.

As you know I live on a hillside above the city and usually when it rains the problem is not so much the water but the landslides! I thought it would be better to go down the hill and along the valley to school instead of the normal mountain/ forest route. Don’t know whether it was a wise decision or not but when I saw the water level of the normally inexistent river I realised that things were much worse than I’d thought.

Water was already creeping in under the doors at school when I got there and Eve, excited by the adventure couldn’t wait to get out and play in it all. The river was dangerous so we made our way back along the top of the mountain road. Lots of rocks and branches and things on the ground but no landslides!! The car in front of us slowed down to avoid splashing down into a big muddy puddle which filled the whole road. I obviously slowed down too but to my horror he just disappeared further and further into the muddy water until it was almost up to his windows. Eve was ecstatic, the nearest she’s ever been to being in a James Bond film. ‘Go, Mummy, go! Faster faster!!!’

Can’t tell you how glad I was finally to make it home unharmed but even then I had no idea of what was going on down in the valley where the river had burst its banks and was raging around like a Hollywood disaster movie.

Genova is built on a hillside and has lots of little torrents which come down the mountainside, feed into the two main rivers (one of which in my valley) and then run down to the sea. The rivers are almost always dry and even when it rains they usually only just get a bit soggy. People take their dogs for walks in them, trees grow in the middle of them, rubbish gets dumped in them. Nobody ever cleans them… Then, every so often, they flood. Constant building nearer and nearer the banks means that when they do flood this sort of thing happens.

Since Friday we’ve heard so many stories of people who risked their lives to save people from drowning, who’ve completely lost their homes and their places of work. 6 people died, including 2 children. Truly incredible that three hours of rain can have destroyed so many people’s lives.

The positive side, if that’s the right word for it, is that people are shining with lovely warm feelings of solidarity, team spirit and general niceness. The Genoese are generally quite grumpy folk but in the past few days they smile thoughtfully, stop their car to let you pass and slap you on the back and offer to help you clean up the mud in your shop or house. And they mean it. Perhaps it’s like the stories our parents and grandparents tell us about the war when everyone looked out for each other and everyone joined in. It feels nice until you remember those not here anymore to share it.

Everyone thought my next blog would be about Berlusconi! It would be nice to celebrate his imminent resignation but
a) we want to see him resign, not just promise to do so (nobody believes he’ll really do it. He’s bound to have a trick up his sleeve)
b) Genova really doesn’t feel like celebrating at the moment.