Italy. Clay Angels at work. “For such a spontaneous surge, the organization was excellent.”
Italy is still dealing with the consequences of widespread flooding. In many areas, the so-called clay angels help with cleaning. All those working to remove floodwaters and other pollutants are asked to be very careful.
In Italy, the ‘mud angels’, that is, the volunteers who clean flooded houses, cellars and shops in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, which has suffered a catastrophic flood in recent days, are admired and appreciated in Italy. They were also impressed by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who visited the region on Thursday. It is to them that thousands of residents owe the fact that their homes were cleared of flood mud in a short time.
Clay Angels – who are they?
Calling volunteers, especially young ones, “clay angels” has a long tradition in Italy. The term first appeared after the devastating flood in Florence on November 4, 1966. Six days later, it was used in a report in the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Volunteers from across the country and abroad immediately set out to clear mud from flooded buildings, including historic ones, and save collections of books and artwork. Without their commitment, they would not have been saved.
The same name is given to successive generations of volunteers who help flood victims in flooded towns. They helped last year in the Marche region.
Shovels instead of textbooks
In those days, their activity reached an unprecedented level, because they set to work, equipped with rubber boots, gloves, buckets and shovels, simultaneously in dozens of towns in Emilia-Romagna, which were flooded after May 16th.
– Social media and all messengers helped us a lot. This is how we agreed to do the cleaning. Interestingly, there was no mess in it. For such a spontaneous uprising, the organization was ideal – this is how a high school girl from Barisano recalls the first days after the flood. She also added that when schools were closed, students en masse exchanged textbooks for scoops. Many of the young men were joined by their parents.
In the early days, volunteers waded everywhere through water and mud, carrying them out of homes, basements, yards, and streets. Now they are still working in areas where the waters have not yet receded. Thousands of young people also took everything from their homes, hoping to save at least some of them. They were carrying heavy furniture, appliances, books and toys. After a few days, the sun becomes their ally, because everything is beginning to dry up.
This is the case, among others, in the districts and towns on the outskirts of Forlì.
– We were helped by people, mostly strangers, who came to us from uninhabited regions and began to clean the muddy waters. I don’t know how many there were, maybe twenty or so. Then they continued, said the woman whose house was flooded with more than half a meter of water. The weather cleared and some of the equipment was moved indoors.
More than a week after the flood, hard, dry mud grips many towns that have covered asphalt roads, sidewalks, squares, and squares. However, people organize spontaneously to help the population return to their normal lives. They clean every salvaged item, and take away the equipment that can’t be salvaged.
Health problems begin
However, it turns out that another serious problem is beginning to appear in the flood regions of Emilia-Romagna. As indicated by local media, the first cases of health problems began to appear in people who were engaged in cleaning water and mud. In the region of the cities of Forlì, Cesena and Ravenna, vaccination against tetanus begins on Friday.
In Lugo, a woman was hospitalized with an infection on her forearm and then developed gastroenteritis after her house was cleaned of water and mud. A man with stomach symptoms was also taken to the hospital there. He also participated in the post-flood clean-up in the town of Bagnacavallo. According to specialists, this poisoning is caused by the involuntary ingestion of microorganisms from standing water.
The situation is difficult in the village of Consellis in the province of Ravenna, where water still stands in some fields, houses, shops and streets.
Local media reported that residents forced to live near stinking stagnant waters were growing anxious. In some areas, garbage, animal remains, spoiled food, oils, and sewage float on the water.
The local health service is asking people involved in the relief effort not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth with mud-stained hands and to wash them often. In a special vademecum, the regional health service warned of the threat posed by the fact that sewage, as well as chemicals from farms and industrial facilities, may be present in the flood waters. As noted, this carries not only the risk of poisoning, but also serious illnesses. Therefore, it is necessary to get vaccinated against this disease.
“We are not talking about an alarm, but about the need for very great attention in terms of prevention,” Raffaele Donini, head of the health department of the Emilia-Romagna government, said in a radio interview.
Residents and volunteers are instructed to use only safe drinking water, to dispose of potentially contaminated food, to wear heavy boots or boots and waterproof gloves when cleaning, and to use mosquito repellent. She also appealed to services not to allow children into the stagnant flood waters.
The medical authorities of the province of Forlì Cesena have organized tetanus vaccination for adults, especially those who work in flooded buildings and have not received a booster dose in the last more than 10 years. A similar action will be launched on Friday in the Ravenna region.
Main image source: PAP/EPA/FABRIZIO ZANI