More than 12,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in northern Albania due to torrential rains that have inundated almost half the country.
The government has declared a state of emergency in Shkodra–the district 75 miles north of the Albanian capital of Tirana that has been hardest hit by the deluge. The same state of emergency has been declared in the districts of Lezha and Durres, south of Shkodra and west of Tirana.
Driving rains throughout the Balkans have produced the heaviest floods in a hundred years, according to the Associated Press. In nearby Bosnia, 2,000 people have been evacuated from homes in the flooded town of Bijeljina. Rivers across the Balkans are overflowing from the rainfall.
Among the families forced to flee their homes are some that receive support from the charity organization SOS Children’s Villages, which operates one village and several family strengthening programs in Albania. These programs, which SOS runs worldwide, teach parenting and small-business skills and provide financial assistance to stabilize families so they can better care for their children.
The flooding caused panic in Shkodra this past weekend, according to an SOS field report. Most roads remain submerged in water, electricity has been cut off, and people are only able to move about in small boats. While the military and police continue the evacuation process, Albania has requested assistance from NATO in rescuing people and delivering food and supplies to those in need. Schools and most businesses are closed.
To date, 33 households receiving support from SOS have been seriously affected by the floods. The homes of ten of these families have been made uninhabitable by five feet of water. These families have been moved to temporary shelters in schools. Other families reside on higher floors but are surrounded by water and unable to leave their dwellings.
The natural disaster is taking a heavy psychological toll. SOS reports that parents are deeply concerned about the emotional condition of their children, many of whom are experiencing panic attacks at the sight of rising water.
SOS staff in Albania are working with other NGOs to coordinate emergency assistance for affected families and children. Food, clothing, blankets, and medicine are urgently needed.
To learn more, visit SOS-usa.org.