Thousands of volunteers help in flood relief efforts on Solidarity Day

Ljubljana, 14 August - Between between 11,000 and 12,000 volunteers were on the ground around Slovenia on Monday to help in the flood relief measures as part of a work-free day dubbed Solidarity Day. The affected areas also keep receiving donations, including from abroad, and the government is drafting additional measures, which will be discussed on Thursday.

Volunteers helping in the flood relief effort as part of Solidarity Day, a work-free day.
Photo: STA

Volunteers helping in the flood relief effort as part of Solidarity Day, a work-free day.
Photo: STA

Volunteers helping in the flood relief effort as part of Solidarity Day, a work-free day.
Photo: STA

According to Sandi Curk, a regional commander of the Civil Protection, some 11,000-12,000 people who have registered themselves through the Flood 2023 application were on the ground today, providing assistance in the flood-affected areas.

These include 90 groups of 30 to 100 people who have been instructed by the authorities where to help and what to do, with the largest number of volunteers having gathered in the Upper Savinja Valley and in Koroška (N).

In addition, around 2,000 people who own buildings in the affected areas or are their relatives and friends participated in the clean-up and reconstruction effort today.

"It is certain that aid will need to be provided in these areas for a long time, maybe even years," said Petra Bezjak Cirman, the director of the Government Communication Office.

Solidarity Day comes more than a week after extreme floods hit Slovenia, as authorities and volunteers continue to help out in the affected areas in what is the third day of organised deployment of volunteers.

The authorities reported that no problems had been detected on the ground, and that everything was running smoothly.

Police, firefighters and civil protection have set up check points in Črna na Koroškem, Mežica, Solčava, Luče, Mozirje and Ljubno ob Savinji until further notice to regulate the number of volunteers arriving in these areas.

Access to many places is difficult as it is as the flooding has damaged many roads and bridges and deposited debris on roadways. The Infrastructure Ministry said 16 state roads are still closed, and partial closures are in force on 60 sections.

Two temporary bridges across the Meža River in north of the country were set up and opened for traffic today - one in Mežica by the Slovenian and Macedonian armed forces, and one in Prevalje by the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW).

"This aid from Germany is very important for us. In addition to being symbolic, as two river banks are being reconnected, it also mean a great relief for traffic," Defence Minister Marjan Šarec said as he attended the opening of both bridges.

Prime Minister Robert Golob, who visited the flood-stricken town of Komenda, some 20 km north of Ljubljana, announced that the government would discuss a proposal for additional flood relief measures on Thursday.

He said any suggestions about how the government could help were welcome, noting that 10,000-15,000 households had been affected, and that those who had lost everything needed to be helped first.

While an aid scheme for business and farmers has already been adopted, the government will now "discuss proposals that specifically concern individuals and combine them in an emergency law," Golob said.

Among those helping out are also students, who organised the collection of financial aid and group departures to the affected areas. The Student Organisation of Slovenia said that they had already been active in this respect last week.

In addition to the work on the ground, donations in the form of funds and equipment also keep pouring in both from Slovenia and abroad.

The Slovenian Red Cross has received five vehicles from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to facilitate the access of its teams to the affected areas. The Dacia Duster vehicles will be in use for half a year.

In the past ten days, the national Red Cross associations from Croatia, Austria, Hungary and Poland came to the aid of the Slovenian counterparts, and other national associations ave offered and are still offering help, the organisation said.

An aircraft of the Polish Armed Forces meanwhile touched down in Ljubljana airport, bringing 33 pallets of humanitarian aid worth EUR 80,000, allocated by Polish Caritas. The donation includes 25 dehumidifiers and a variety of other equipment.

A day of solidarity with Slovenia will be held in the churches around Poland on Tuesday, with the funds being collected for the people affected, said Jana Lampe, the international aid coordinator for Slovenian Caritas.

The tourist association managing the Vintgar Gorge, north of Lake Bled, decided to donate the entire proceeds from the tickets sold today to the affected people, with around 3,000 visitors being expected today.

Many other tourist and cultural institutions decided for similar campaigns, including the Maritime Museum Piran, and the Cankarjev Dom centre, City Museum and Jakopič Gallery in Ljubljana.

As the affected people also need psychosocial aid, psychologists and volunteers have jumped in to help, while the Health Ministry said it would assume the organisation of such assistance with the National Institute of Public Health on Wednesday.

At least seven teams comprising psychologists, social workers, a registered nurse, a representative of the Red Cross or Caritas or local NGOs, and if necessary also a representative of the fire brigade, army or police, will be provided.

© STA, 2023