Red Cross Warns of Disease Risk at Camps for Flood Victims in Romania

A Red Cross official on Wednesday warned that several thousand flood victims who remain in temporary tent camps are at risk of disease because of unhygienic conditions.

More than 3,000 people were evacuated to tent camps after the Danube River, fed by melting snow and rainfall in central Europe, caused widespread flooding for almost two weeks in Romania. The floodwater also hit areas of neighboring Serbia, Bulgaria and Ukraine.

More work needs to be done to ensure medical services are in place to deal with a possible outbreak of disease in the tent camps, said John English, leader for the Red Cross team responding to the flood disaster in Romania.

Among the problems, he said, was a lack of clean water.

He said that while hundreds of evacuees in the southwest village of Rast were receiving bottled drinking water from authorities, they lacked water for bathing and toilets.

"Water and draining, those are critical things to watch because they reduce disease transmission," English said.

The Red Cross was working with authorities to build more permanent latrines and dig deep wells for clean water as the new village will be rebuilt on the camp's location, he said.

About 13,000 people have still not been able to return to their homes in Romania, most of them living with friends and relatives. The government and private individuals have offered to help rebuild houses once the floodwaters recede.

The Red Cross has allocated euro1.5 million (US$1.9 million) to help flood victims in Romania, and has donated tents, boats, blankets, mattresses and tarpaulins.

The government said Wednesday it would provide 500 mobile homes, costing 8.75 million lei (US$3 million; euro2.4 million) as temporary shelter for evacuated residents.

In some of the camps, as many as 30 people are crowded into large military tents.

So far, there have not been any outbreaks of disease in the camps along the Danube.

Authorities say the Danube's levels reached record highs and blame the floods on communist-era dikes altering the river's flow that were designed to reclaim land for agriculture.

There have been no confirmed reports of deaths from the recent flooding and no official estimates on damage, which is believed to be extensive. Last year, flash floods on other rivers killed 74 people and caused over euro1.5 billion (US$1.8 billion) in damage.