Budapest Sun
United they stand

By Eszter Balázs

Apr. 20, 2000

Flooding has continued to cause havoc with the lives of residents all along the river Tisza, especially in the Szolnok region.

Three villages, Tiszasüly, Kőtelek and Hunyadfalva, lie lower than the surrounding area and are particularly at risk. The dikes shifted at Tiszasüly last Saturday.

While Government officials were wringing their hands over protecting their respective budgets, there were no disputes among the three villages caught in the middle of the flood about where the work should be done.

Géza Csörge, a 73 year-old engineer from Kőtelek, 30km north of Szolnok, has been on the dikes since flooding started in April.

Although his village is one of the most at risk he did not think about leaving his home.

"Six buses were provided for people who wanted to move temporarily to a more secure area, but it was mostly children and the elderly who were evacuated. It’s only a few people," he said.

István Boros, deputy spokesman at the Ministry of Traffic, Telecommunication and Water Management said that in the Szolnok area soldiers, with the help of helicopters, have been working to shore-up the dykes.

The daily cost of the rescue operation amounts to Ft380 million ($1.4 million), which is financed by the contribution of 2.1% of ministry budgets.

However, local residents, like Csörge, are not waiting for the Government to rescue them. They have literally taken matters into their own hands.

"We work on the dykes night and day. People organize themselves to provide enough people where needed.

"The men work with the spades, the women hold the sacks, others move it to the trucks which deliver the defenses to the places needed," Csörge said.

His son, Tamás, 28, who is a teacher in a neighboring village, is also working on the dikes.

"It is spring holiday at the school so many children help us as well," Csörge said.

Through it all he remains optimistic. On Monday night Csörge observed a one centimeter fall on a rod which measures water levels. "So far, no serious damage has occurred to our properties. Some household gardens are flooded, but only green pepper and tomato plants have been damaged."

More damage is being done to the budget of ministries, which are piecing together the financing of the operation.

As of this week Ft37 billion ($ ) have been earmarked to cover the costs and an additional Ft21,5 billion ($ ) was set aside as a special reserve for flood protection, out of which about Ft10 billion ($ ) is not available until June.

The programs affected by the cut-back will not include the highway construction or the housing loan project.

The US Embassy offered several generators along with a promise to provide 1,000 sleeping bags if the need should arise.

Offers of assistance have also come from the Czech Republic, Croatia and Poland, said a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior National Disaster Prevention Directorate.

Original article