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Thursday, 27 October 2011

A narrow escape...

First of all thank you all those sending messages phoning or trying to phone and asking after us.  We were 48 hours off line and we have received a deluge of messages.  We are fine and the land has suffered no significant damage is the good news first

For those of you who haven't heard, although it has made the international news in Europe, our area has officially been declared a disaster zone.  Six people died and at least another six are still missing as we suffered what I have heard described as an inland tsunami.  We just escaped the worst of it by being just off the eye of the storm.  The first we knew of the disaster was when concerned relatives phoned me on my mobile phone. 

Yes it had rained most of Tuesday and during the night to Wednesday at times pretty hard.  The really bad bit didn't seem to last for more than 2 or 3 hours though, so we weren't all that worried.  It wasn't like last year, when it rained for weeks on end and then a 24 hour downpour on top of that.  This year we'd had hardly any rain, so we were in fact quite happy to get some.

However what nature threw at this region this time was something quite unprecedented.  Within these 2-3 hours almost half a metre of rain fell!  Half metre deep that is, not wide!  This caused a huge tidal wave down two river valleys, the Vara and the Magra, taking everything with it in its wake as well as causing massive destruction in the world famed Cinque Terre region, cutting the it off from the outside world.  To give you an idea of the geography and how close we came to disaster ourselves I made this little map, which shows the main eye of the storm as far as I understand it.

The blue stripes show roughly the eye of the storm.  The red circles are the worst effected areas.  The green circle is where we live and where our land is.  I highlighted the two rivers.  As you can see they come together just upriver from us.  The combined wave then surged down to the sea where it destroyed the last bridge before the mouth of the river. 

Today I took the bike across the valley to see if everything was ok on the land, which as I say it was.  Here are some of the scenes I saw on the way over:

The normally paved road to the river is under a foot of mud.  On the left is an olive grove, not a rice paddy.

Even some olive trees got uprooted...

Many cars just got swept along by the floods and dumped on top of each other.

Horses normally graze there.  And that boat wasn't there last week... This is 500 metres from the river!  The stables in the background are ruined.

Shipping containers scattered like toy bricks...



Locals were quick to blame authorities for not doing enough to clean up the river.  Debris, like the tree trunks, quickly get stuck on obstacles like bridges, diverting the water from it's usual course and into built-up areas.

Our thoughts go out to those of our near neighbours who have lost property or worse loved ones.  I understand that most of the victims were elderly people who drowned in their own houses as flood waters rose with 10 minutes, leaving the frail no time to escape.

17 comments:

Sheila said...

Good to hear you are both OK and have avoided any major damage to your land.

MikeH said...

One wonders if Mother Nature is sending us increasingly loud messages that we seemingly continue to ignore.

It's good to see that you have escaped this latest deluge.

Regards,
Mike

Heiko said...

Thank you both. I think you are right Mr. H I'm thinking of mainly planting trees on our land and start searching for a flatter piece of land.

chaiselongue1 said...

I'm so glad to hear you're OK. It looks and sounds terrible and I remember how your land suffered last year. We've got torrential rain now, but not as bad as this, I hope. Everything has been so dry for so long, so it's one extreme to the other.

Mr. H. said...

Wow, I had not heard anything about this...what a tragic event. So glad to hear that you are OK.

Ayak said...

I hadn't heard about this either Heiko. Dreadful. So pleased to hear you are OK xxx

contadina said...

Good grief Heiko, so glad you are okay, but seeing that degree of devastation is pretty scary. Here's hoping that some less extreme weather comes your way.

Babette said...

This looks scary! So pleased to hear that you are both OK. But m plus side to this - could it mean you have more time to sit in front of your computer and carry on with the book? I haven't been able to meet anyone from the French side yet, but I'm determined to get it done.

Love to you both

Babette

Heiko said...

Mr.H, it had to happen one day, I confused you with my other regular commenter, Mike H.

Ayak, it was nothing compared what happened in the East of your country.

Contadina, let's hope so indeed. It's been quite nice since.

Babette, the last few days have been glorious actually and we've just come back from 3 days in the caravan. Sooner or later the weather is going to get plain dreary though, and I'll get on. I'm about a quarter through so far with the book. :)

Prairie Cat said...

Glad to hear you are all right, but man, the pictures you posted are devastating. It's scary to think about how quickly water rises, and how much force is behind it.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey! just checking in for an update - how are you doing? sending hugs and best wishes for all
:-)

Heiko said...

Cat, it is quite scary. Welcome to my blog by the way.

Sis, the weather since has been fine, but more rain has been forecast for Friday. We're off now to repair the little damage there was and sow some fava beans.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

Oh my goodness! Am glad you and your family are safe but feel so terrible for your neighbours. Those images are so scary! Imagining the torrent that caused all that damage is horrifying :(

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

This is all so sad, stay safe :(

stewgreen said...

Hi ..You might find helpX people thru the active board http://groups.yahoo.com/group/via-francigena. I walked the Via Francigena from Rome to Germany in Aug/Sept/Oct so passed thru Stefano the official route sends people from Aulla over the hills to Stefano. Also walked from Sarzana to LaSpezia through Cinque Terre ..incredible to think places where I walked were destroyed. Well not such a surprise; Cinque Terre path was a disaster waiting to happen 2nd section hasn't worked since 2004 damage and Sarzana had big floods last Christmas.. Did the local gov learn ?

stewgreen said...

sorry a typed wtong "the official route sends people from Aulla over the hills to Sarzana" I meant. I walked along the road and river

Homesteading Chic said...

I am so glad that you are ok. I'm sorry to hear that there are people that didn't make it. How sad.

Lynn