Friday, 9 October 2020

Humanity rises to the challenge

Last Thursday and Friday, Northern Italy and South-East France were hit by Storm Alex. In some areas, half a year's worth of rain fell in just 36 hours and the devastation was terrible. I merely suffered a power cut but up in the mountains along the border many people were swept away by torrential floods that destroyed roads, bridges and railway lines and brought thousands of tons of trees and vegetation down swollen rivers. It must be a terrifying way to die. And I am distressed that the bodies of these poor people, mainly from France, have been carried out to sea and then washed up on the beaches here. The lives lost is a source of great upset, especially as no bodies have as yet been identified, but the towns and villages inundated by mudslides or filled with felled trees are a tragedy, too. Shops and businesses have already suffered greatly this year with forced closures because of Covid, and now this.

As ever, though, hundreds of volunteers from less damaged places have stepped up with wellies and shovels to help the emergency services and locals deal with the mud and detritus. They are called Mud Angels, a term coined in 1966 when Florence was struck by a similar disaster and people from all over the world came in to help. The Africans who live in Ventimiglia, the Italian town on the border, who are looking to emigrate to France, have been particularly prized volunteers. Yes, immigrants, whom so many despise, are as ever at the forefront of humane actions. I dare say President Macron's visit is appreciated and the Prince of Monaco's gift of money, as well as European Recovery Fund money, but it's the ordinary people on the ground who do the work and make no grand statements other than to go and help others in difficulty.

I asked the police on the waterfront in Sanremo if there's anything the public like me can do but they politely declined, waving a hand at the mess of treetrunks and junk on the shore. Unless you have a JCB or a wood chipper there's not a lot you can do, they said. 

What a year! This week two friends of mine have lost parents, another friend had a heart attack, another is dying of cancer; someone else I know died of a stroke after two years in care. That's just this week past. And the Covid continues to explode into a second wave. But I keep thinking of the people who took time out to help the victims of last week's storm and that keeps me confident that humanity wins through.

My camera's none of the best (it's for underwater shots!) but the day after the storm you can see the huge brown stain on the sea that is all the mud, trees and mess brought down from the mountains
Broken breakwaters, and the endless mess covering what is normally a pretty beach with colourful umbrellas in Sanremo, Italy

This BBC article gives you a full report, photos and film:

BBC on Storm Alex


A dip in the archives 

And now something jollier from the past. Three years ago I had a fascinating and fun trip to Prague in Central Europe with my friend Sarah, one of my "androgynous holidays" of that year.

Prague 2017

Stay safe and well and look after others who may struggling in this difficult year.

Sue x


  1. Good to hear you are safe and only had a power cut to deal with. The extreme weather has certainly made itself known in certain parts of the world. It's almost as if there's some type of Climate Change being ignored by sections of the world. >:-(

    That aside, I think those who step up to help - yourself included - show great spirit and compassion. Oh, and if you can't help with the work directly, do the catering. It all helps. :-)

    Thanks for sharing the Prague photos. A beautiful city, lovely people, and such a mixed history. On a political note, I wonder if the current state of US/UK politics is partly down to not having experienced such awful events. Then again, it may not be a good idea to go their for your mental health.

    1. Thanks, Lynn. In some ways I wish the Nobel Peace Prize had gone to Greta Thunberg as it would have emphasised again that we need to do something urgently about the climate we are changing. This year I have had my household goods damaged in a flood at the storage place and we are still clearing up after the storm here, both extreme events being caused by unseasonal heat. The sea here is 1°C warmer than it should be, which is a lot.

      Yes, I agree that US and UK politics are being poisoned by the ignorance of what fascism is, although much of Europe in fact, especially Eastern Europe, is on the cusp of repeating previous mistakes, especially in Hungary and even Poland. I hope that a Biden/Harris win in the US and the disastrous approach to Covid by populist governments will curb the appeal of extremists.

      Stay safe, hon. Sue x

  2. I saw it on the news and thought of you... yes, it's so often those with the least who do the most, though your point of the money donated is equally valid (given that I doubt the Prince of Monaco has a JCB either...) I hope they get their permits to go to France, they've surely earned them after this. Hope you stay safe too! xx

    1. Thank you, sweetie. I hope you can make it here, storms or no storms! And, yes, I hope those kind guys from Africa get to make a better life for themselves. Stay safe, too. Sue x