Floods have caused huge damage in Skenderaj, Mitrovica and the Dukagjin region to property and assets created since the end of the war, and residents are waiting for help to return to their homes at least in spring.
The small attic at the top of their house in Llaushë village in Skenderaj had become a shelter for the three small children of the Geci family.
The house’s iron doors and surrounding high wall failed to stop the rush of water that flooded the yard and the floor of the Geci’s house.
The father of the children and head of the family, Agron Geci, in order to save his two daughters and son from the water that had flooded the floor, placed them in a small corner in the attic.
“What I have been investing in for 20 years was demolished in one day
The Geci family is just one of the families whose house and furniture were damaged by recent floods in Kosovo.
Families affected by the floods have placed all their furniture in the yard. Electronic devices have stopped working because of the water. Floors have been removed because they were completely destroyed.
For Geci, the first day of the flood was a horror he had never seen before. Together with his wife, children and his mother, they were trapped inside until, a few hours later, they were pulled out of the living room window with an excavator.
“After a while, they [family members]struggled with a few things, and in the meantime, the biggest flood came and the water level increased, most of the water came here and opened the doors. We saw that the water level is rising. I took the children, so that they don’t see the water and don’t get scared, and put them on the ceiling under the roof,” Geci told Prishtina Insight.
The Hydrometeorological Institute of Kosovo had warned in advance that, as a result of the rain, especially in the western, northwestern and northern parts of Kosovo, some rivers, mainly those with the character of streams, had turned into rapid floods. But citizens were unprepared for such devastating floods.
Even though the family stayed at home trying to save themselves and some equipment, the six members are now taking shelter with relatives until a solution is found. They have no hope of returning home until spring.
“There is considerable material damage, but since there are no human victims, it is fine… we will do the other things again. But at home, everything we have worked for since the war has been destroyed. Five or six years ago, I renewed the house once again, but what can we do?” he asked.
The only things they managed to save are the clothes and children’s books.
They are hoping for help from the municipality of Skenderaj, which Geci said has promised to help them overcome a situation that has destroyed all the wealth they have created since the war.
Due to the floods of January 19, the Municipality of Skenderaj declared a state of emergency. The day after, views from Skenderaj showed flooded cars, cracked asphalt, demolished shops and yards filled with water.
Desperate, Ekrem Kuqi stood in front of the doors of his furniture shop, workshop and house, all destroyed by the floods in the Bosniak neighbourhood in Mitrovica.
The 65-year-old is crushed by the fact that no one from Kosovo’s institutions has visited him, even to bring him a cup of water, while his neighbours from the Serbian community have come from the Municipality of North Mitrovica to offer help.
According to him, the cost of the damage caused by the rain, including the two businesses that he and his wife own, exceeds 20,000 euros.
Electric woodworking and sewing machines are out of order. Kuqi says they no longer have the will to try to remove the water that flooded both buildings.
“We have worked hard but God takes it all when he wants. Now we’re out. My wife, brother and I are in our house all the time. We tried to warm ourselves with a blanket … But we have no water, no heating and no electricity,” he lamented.
According to Kuqi, only on the first day some representatives from the Emergency Committee visited them and then Turkish KFOR peacekeepers brought them a gallon of water, oil and a kilogram of sugar.
“Now the streets are open, now we can go out and buy things,” he said.
Although their workshops and house are located close to the river, Kuqi says that it never happened to them before that the water reached a level that destroys all the furniture and equipment.
This neighbourhood is inhabited by Albanians, Serbs, Roma and other non-majority communities and is considered a kind of daily meeting place between Albanians and Serbs.
An unemployed head of a family of five, Hilmi Jusufi was so upset that he could not speak. His house in the Lagjja e Boshnjakëve was engulfed in darkness because they did not dare to turn on the lights for fear that the equipment might be set on fire by the rain.
“What I have been investing in for 20 years was demolished in one day. When can I get this [wealth] again? Never. They were old [furniture], but they were enough for me,” Jusufi told Prishtina Insight.
Even the very small tea bar they had in the neighborhood was destroyed by the floods.
Jusufi says they are overlooked between the two institutions [South Mitrovica Municipality and the Kosovo government], so that they have no hope that anyone will come to their aid.
Three days after the floods, the Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, visited the village of Lisicë in Mitrovica, and said that the government and the municipalities are working together to support the citizens and overcome this situation.
Hope of returning in spring
The yard of the house was completely filled with damaged things which until two weeks ago were inside the two-floor house of Bedri Kaqkini, 64, in District 3 of Skenderaj.
Now, the pensioner alone was trying to remove these remains from the house and clean the building to renovate it.
They cherish hopes of returning home in spring. This is what other families damaged by the rains think, that until March they will be forced to take shelter wherever they can. If the institutions help them to recover, in the spring they can return home.
“After the floods, the municipal inspectors did the damage assessment. They found that the house is completely uninhabitable and asked me if I wanted help with shelter and I said no because I can shelter my family for now,” the pensioner said.
“All the furniture inside, the television, electric appliances for about 12 members are all gone. I also have a problem… there are no hand-craft workers at the moment to help me. I’m trying to fix a few things by myself but it’s very difficult because all the things in the house are destroyed,” the head of the family said.
Skenderaj was one of the municipalities most affected by the floods of the last week.
The Association of Municipalities of Kosovo has asked the government to create an emergency fund for the municipalities affected by the floods. The board has asked that the emergency fund be managed by the municipalities affected by the floods themselves.
A few kilometers from Kaqkini’s house, in District 3, the one-floor house of Sami Vojvoda, which was renovated a few years ago, is now uninhabited. He has had to start the renovations over again.
“About 8-9,000 euros of damage was done to the house by the floods”, he said while working at the same time.
Since the house does not now meet the basic conditions for living, the family of five has found temporary shelter at his uncle’s son.
In order to see the damage caused to electronics, Prishtina Insight visited an electrical equipment shop in Skenderaj.
Since the centre of Skenderaj has been covered by water over 40 centimeters deep, damage to the plumbing, electricity, water supply and sewage equipment of Valon Behram’s shop has been caused worth 60,000 euros, according to him.
“On Thursday, around 10 or 11, the floods started. Here at our place [in the store] around 4pm the floods started and entered our shop, the water came in from the back and came through the door. The floods are big and the damage is very severe,” Behrami told Prishtina Insight.
He, his family and volunteers removed the water that had come out of the sewers and outside using submersible pumps and their own equipment.
“More than 50,000 euros have gone to waste. We had to throw it all with the truck because they were all destroyed and rusted,” he said.
Behrami said that the municipality has promised to help them, so they are at their mercy.
The municipality of Skenderaj has opened a fund for damages caused by floods. It has created 11 municipal commissions with five field members each to assess the damage caused by the floods.
The government of Kosovo has listed the places and damage that has been done in Kosovo.
The worst damaged places are the villages of Verboc and Barilevë in the Municipality of Prishtina; the villages of Sekiraq, Sibofc and Recicë in Podujeva; Skenderaj; Istog, where there were also cases of evacuation who were accommodated in the Municipal Center of Family Medicine; Klinë, where more than 40 families were also evacuated, while in the village of Shtaric, thanks to the intervention of the police and the authorities, a situation that endangered the lives of two citizens was avoided.
Various neighborhoods of the Southern Municipality of Mitrovica have also been flooded; in the Northern Municipality of Mitrovica, the most pronounced problems are presented in the Lagje të Boshnjakëve, where seven houses are endangered; Zveçan, where 40 houses were endangered; Kutnje and Lower Kernin villages, where four families have been evacuated and 20 houses are at risk, while in Zubin Potok 30 houses were at risk.
During the floods, the Emergency Management Agency, AME, announced that the most serious situation was in the Dukagjin region. According to the AME, currently the situation appears to have eased.