Friday, June 06, 2014

Lost in The Balkan Floods

On May 13th, a cyclone dubbed Tamara hit southeastern Europe and, over only a few days, doused it with three months’ worth of rainfall. Relentless torrents swelled rivers and tributaries, breaching banks and bursting levees. The brunt of the surge swept through Bosnia, Serbia, and eastern Croatia, toppling bridges, swallowing up towns, and savaging miles of countryside. The governments of Bosnia and Serbia declared states of emergency and deployed rescue teams to evacuate survivors in the worst hit areas—where floodwaters were lapping at roof eaves. Caught by surprise and inadequately warned, residents corralled family members into boats and toward any available elevation, scrambling to save provisions and livestock and heirlooms and pets. For those who had lived through the region’s wars, it was the second time in their lives that they had lost everything....

(this next part may sound familiar to the people of New Orleans):
...This kind of pigeonholing can happen anywhere to anyone. But we rarely get the opportunity to see the cumulative scope of its effects: years of reductive rhetoric, painting the entirety of the Balkans as a place beyond help, beyond hope, have led to a quiet assumption that whatever plight befalls the Balkans is inevitable, even karmic. Because, in case you’ve forgotten, the people of the former Yugoslavia, for reasons too mired in consonant-heavy names and tribal blood-feuds for civilized nations to bother sorting out, could not exercise enough self-control to refrain from engaging in inexplicable, outrageous, and relentlessly brutal civil wars on European soil. They did it to themselves.

This attitude was there in the nineties, exasperated and cold, limiting evacuation possibilities and adequate humanitarian aid until it was too late. It calcified the global capacity for empathy so that, even now, when the Balkan floods manage to scrape onto Google News on the back of Angelina Jolie’s fifty-thousand-dollar donation toward Bosnian relief, the extent of public interest is the equivalent of a “now what?” eye roll.

Lost in The Balkan Floods : The New Yorker

BBC news story

Aljazeera story

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