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EU helps out with fire-fighting and flood relief - 25/08/2008

An elderly woman wades through knee-high water carrying a bag

Civil protection mechanism springs into action as EU receives requests for help from several countries around Europe

While summer is eagerly awaited by many Europeans hoping for blue skies and warm, sunny evenings, the season can bring extreme, disruptive and even deadly weather.

Floods and forest fires are a regular feature of European summers. Widespread flooding has already hit parts of Romania and some of its neighbours this summer, while Greece was battling over 65 fires at one point in July.

In both cases, other EU countries provided assistance. When torrential rain swept across Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, claiming lives and destroying houses, the EU’s civil protection mechanism received requests for specific equipment from each country. The EU coordinated donations, including generators, boats, tents and pumps. Any country can apply for assistance for relief efforts, humanitarian aid and reconstruction in times of need, whether it is an EU member or not.

In 2007, 84 people lost their lives in Greek forest fires and 2 700 km² of forest, olive groves and farmland were destroyed. This year, Greece requested assistance in July when Rhodes was struggling to put out forest fires affecting 15 km² of land. The EU’s civil protection mechanism secured the loan of five aircraft from other EU countries to help extinguish the fires.

And beyond Europe, the EU has already provided assistance to China, Burma, Bolivia and Ecuador this year – in the shape of equipment and experts, who assess what help is required. In addition to the 27 EU member countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway also contribute.

Further assistance is provided by the EU’s Joint Research Centre, which provides forecasts of floods, earthquakes, fires and storms, and then monitors them using satellite technology. This information helps people on the ground respond to natural disasters quickly and effectively.

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