Saturday, November 1, 2008

Flooding in Sardina: The Day the Heavens Opened Up in Sestu, Sardinia

On the 22nd of October we were staying in Sestu, a town close to Cagliari where my relatives live.
Most people ask me where Sardinia is in Italy so I thought I would show you before I explain where we were.

Sardinia is in the centre of the Mediterranean. You can see it is not on the mainland of Italy but is one of its regions. Cagliari is the Region's capital and Sestu, where I am from, is about 6 miles from the City. It is a town of around 20,000 in population.

We were on our way out for the day with an uncle of mine when he called to say that they would be late picking us up because they were stuck in flood waters. They had a 4x4 vehicle and managed to drive through what were 1.5 metre floods through all the streets. For a time the streets looked like Venice.
When they arrived they explained that something like this had not been seen for over 50 years.

Sestu is built in a flood plain. Drainage is poor and to top it off, everyone builds homes with basements. The basement seems to become the main living area in most homes. This is a recipe for disaster. One of my cousins has a basement with two additional stories on top and due to a power failure the water pump which is supposed to pump water away from the basement did not work. Add to this that their emergency generator had not worked, they ended up pumping water out of their basement the whole day. Their story was not as horrendous as others we heard. Some families lost everything and had no home to go back to. 4 people died in the floods, some drowned, others trapped in vehicles and others trapped in basements that just filled up with water.

Surrounding towns and suburbs were also affected. Luckily my Aunt's house where we were staying was not affected.

As we left for our trip out that day, in the 4x4 vehicle, we drove through metres of water which was frightening. Michael commented "Look mummy, we need a gondola, it's like Venice". Out of the mouth of babes! He was so right and sadly so.

Sestu had not seen rain for over 4 months, it too a victim of climate change as most area are now so when it rains, it pours. Sadly climate change has seen many events such as this where extreme weather conditions create devastation. Believe it or not, during all this there was not a breath of wind.

We drove through the water and watched smaller cars float past us with people trapped inside. It was chilling to see young girls stuck in these cars, a look of desperation on their faces. I could not help but think what I would have done had that been me. The sheer weight of the water on the car door preventing them from getting out, their faces painted with a hope that the water would not rise any more. We did not stick around to see what happened next, sadly, we all had to get out as quick as we could.

The water was gushing through the streets with a strong current, you would have sworn that a river had broken its banks but not the case in Sestu. Just rain and lots of it! This rain followed us for the rest of the week when we travelled through Florence, Pisa and Venice. Hopefully we will bring some back to Adelaide with us where our farmers probably need it more....

We took a small video of the flooding as we drove carefully out of town. See for yourself, this was by no means the worst of it.

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