Hundreds of Volunteers Help Genoa Hit by Terrible Flood

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 05:23

Over the past few days, rivers of mud and torrential rain flooded Genova and other areas of Liguria, leaving one man dead and millions of euros worth of damage as streets became torrents washing away several cars.

This is not the first time Liguria is hit by severe weather condition, in 2011 similar flooding claimed six lives and caused tremendous damage in the Cinque Terre area. As we write, Parma in Emilia Romagna is facing similar problems.

Some officials blame climate change for the extensive storms that have battered Italy over the past few years, but  many citizens are questioning why the work to build special barriers planned after the 2011 Liguria flood, with an allocated budget of 35 million, have never begun and why they were not alerted about the approaching storm.

However, while the controversy keeps fuelling the debate on the media and social media, with the city still on high alert, hundreds of volunteers came to help Genova and the genovesi. They call them 'Gli Angeli di Fango' (mud angels), they are mostly young people coming to the rescue to help digging, cleaning and offering support to the population hit by the disaster. 

The term was first used in 1966, when the worst flood of the Arno River since 1557 hit Florence, killing many people and damaging masterpieces of art and rare books. At the time, with the combined effort of Italian citizens and foreign donors, 'Angeli del Fango',  the city was cleaned and many of the fine works of Florentine culture were saved and restored.

Both individuals and organizations contributed to the conservation mission, providing both funding and manpower.  Many Italians still remember  a special documentary produced by  Florentine native director Franco Zeffirelli, Florence: Days of Destruction,  narrated in English and Italian by actor Richard Burton, to raise awareness of the flood. Released a month after the disaster, it reputedly raised more than $20 million for reconstruction efforts.

Fast forward to 2014 and we all wish there would be no need for Angeli del Fango any longer, but as 50 years later we are left to face the same problems, we can only say our big GRAZIE to 'mud angels' and demand that authorities take immediate action to prevent similar disasters in the future.