Monday, October 31, 2011

la Chiesa, one day after.

piano, piano

You'll see Manuel in many of these pictures. It's to give you an idea of the scope of the height of the mud and the dirt. As you can see from the earlier photos, things are getting done. But, it is, as they say, piano piano.
Directly below (there is no way to say this delicately) is our "poop drop off point" - hence, cacca. In Italy, toilets can't function if there is no incoming water. Unlike in the US, it's a problem that is not solved simply but filling up the tank with a bucket. This is, clearly, a huge sanitation concern.

Below is a photo taken at Lorenzo's restaurant. You've seen it here before, and may have read about it. Ciak is as famous as Manuel's family's Ristorante Miky, and they have, as the sign reads, lost everything.

The view into Fast Bar after almost a week of removing the mud, which reached about half a foot below the ceiling.
The view up Via Roma...
The view south down Via Roma.
Manuel, on the far right, shows how high the mud and water ran. The trench in the middle of the road is the work that has been done since Tuesday to clean out Via Roma.
Via Roma. To the left is the post office.
The post office. You can now see why sending us supplies in the mail simply is not going to work.
More post office. This isn't a garage view - This is the street, and how high the mud rose. The have been bulldozing all day to get this pathway cleared.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Grazie per niente

Ho trovato questo sul facebook - I found this as a friends status update on facebook today, in addition to having seen it happen, and I'll translate what happened:

Today at about 3 pm an Italian army helicopter touched down by the soccer field. The army men, dressed in their finest, jumped out with a tv crew in tow, shoveled some mud as they were filmed, then hopped back into the copter and flew away. Publicity so they can say they are there helping, when we are all working ourselves to the bone to rebuild and save this town.

Thanks for nothing.

Vorrei condividere con voi quello che ho visto OGGI, punta del campo sportivo di Fegina (Monterosso al mare) ore 15,00 circa! Elicottero dell'esercito militare attera, scendono i militari belli puliti e freschi come le rose e SI FANNO FILMARE DA RAI 3 mentre fanno finta di spalare un mucchietto di terra portata dalle ruspe (di volontari che si fanno il culo da giorni 24h su 24). UNA VERGOGNA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! non siamo il circo Orfei e c'รจ gente, compreso il ragazzo che ha perso la vita, che durante l'alluvione hanno fatto i salti mortali per metter in salvo le persone!! quindi VERGOGNATEVI, fate schifo!!!

I wish i had...

Hot water. Water in general.
Fresh vegetables. A salad of any sort.
A vacation this year.
A restaurant to run still.
A clean beautiful town like it was 6 days ago.
A lightly toasted everything bagel with lox, veggie cream cheese, a slice of tomato and capers, a tuna avocado sushi roll, a steaming bowl of pho, my mom's chicken soup, a glass of red wine IN A GLASS NOT A PLASTIC CUP, hot chai tea, Rocio in my kitchen cooking mexican food, a pumpkin ale...
Dry, clean clothes. Warm jeans from a clothes dryer.
A time machine.
A way to help the Old Town more. We're so busy cleaning up our own mess. This goes for Vernazza too.
A way to take Manuel and his whole family on a warm sunny vacation.
My family, but not here, it's a mess.
Veggie samosas.
A yoga class - Tara Stiles in my living room.
fluency in Italian.
a way to stop it from raining more on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prima e dopo

A bit of "before and after"of Monterosso...

Vernazza before and after

And just like that...

...the water is gone :(

Photos: Top left, inside of Church St. G. Battista, Middle, Piazza Matteolli, up Via V. Emanuele and Via Buranco, far right, up Via Roma.
Above Left, view of the train from the Old Town, Above Right more Church inside.

The amount of work being done in the Old Town is staggering. Above left, the playground in the old town. Middle, what we're walking on. Far right, used to be the beach where you take the ferry to the other 4 towns. Right here is the side of the Church, where the water crested seen on the higher line on the Church wall in the photo on the right. You're more in danger of getting run over by a bulldozer then anything else. However, the amount of work WE have to do at the B and B and Cantina is just as staggering. All the basement storage is getting tossed out today, and we spent 8 hours sorting through muddy gunk to figure out what we can salvage. Also, again, sanitation is weighing heavily on my mind, but we're doing what we can...

Red Cross Donations

Choose emergenza liguria toscana - but there is nothing yet specifically for us here in Monterosso.
Another morning here - haven't gone down yet because I realized that maybe the first few days we weren't as stringent about washing our hands and such as we should have been, not realizing how serious this was. The water that we've been cleaning and immersing ourselves in is full of rotten food, meat, feces and god knows what else, as if that all wasn't good enough. So now that we have water, however questionable it may be, I'm washing everything on insanely high temperatures and went on an ammonia cleaning spree. No dysentery for me, thank you very much.
So, after this fun start to the morning, I'm going to help with the Cantina. The Parco Nazionale donated hoodies, waterproof pants, gloves and masks and - thank goodness - waterproof boots. Manuel's cousin is coming from Genoa today with friends to help as well, and bring us more cleaning supplies - and hopefully some hand sanitizer.
I'll post later. Thanks again, everyone, so so much for all your support.

Friday, October 28, 2011

La Cantina, little by little

I am exhausted. From sun up to way past sun down we have been working in a revolving group (save for the De Finas and I) of people to clear out the Cantina. We started at 8 am. It's now about 11. So forgive me, but I'm just too tired to write very much. To the left is the Cantina at the end of the day. The water was about 6 inches above the well there. To the far left is the bar as it looks now.
Below here is todays news, a community looking on to the work, and some lunch from the restaurant for all of us.
And the lower right is the bottles from the Cantina. Most were, oddly, intact, which is good. Unfortunately, we can't sell anything without a label, so it might as well be ruined...either that, or when this is over, we have A LOT of drinking to do.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

We can do this

Today followed another sleepless night, wondering how we can ever reclaim what was here and the lives we had. We woke up tired, dirty (still no water) and depressed and went down to the B and B. The basement was completely flooded, as I said, but the 6 guest rooms only had about 3 inches of muck covering the floor. From 8 am to about 7 pm we labored to clean it, and were able to complete almost 3 of the rooms. There were 7 of us. Tomorrow we start the Cantina, where the water has gone back down significantly.
The Cantina sustained the most damage. The water rose above the bar and the kitchen, meaning that all of our electrical stuff, bar fridge, kitchen equipment, 4 wine fridges - all of it was ruined. But, thank god, the walls are intact and the foundation seems stable. The bathroom, oddly enough, was untouched by the water, and the bottles are dusty but otherwise fine. We, at least, have something to save.
The old town made incredible progress today. The workers got their backhoes and wonderful people showed up with tons of bottled water. Via Roma was cleared out and we can see what is left of the street. It makes the inside of the restaurants and shops damaged that much more dramatic, but it also emphasizes how hard these people have worked all their lives to have what they had, and how unwilling they are to give it up. Talk has turned to how we can fix this, and what we need to do to save this town. Who needs what and when we can get it - how we can manage the electricity, the water, and the engineering of these creaky old buildings that are now filled with 8 feet of mud.
Some of it, yes, can't be saved, but I'm impressed and moved by the optimism of the people here. For lunch and dinner, both in the New Town (at the Restaurant) and the Old Town, in the formerly unrecognizable piazza, the community got together, put out some pots, and served a dinner for everyone. Plastic plates of spaghetti and some stale bread eaten standing up, dirty, on a tractor with my feet squishing in mud. "Dai, Cri," urged a friend, handing me a thin plastic cup of some red wine.
We spoke to friends, all of us commiserating about the damage, but also talking about rebuilding. We did a lot today, and we have a lot more to do. Tomorrow, God willing, we start trying to salvage what we can of the Cantina. And, by the by, I know God is here because he sent the Bishop of La Spezia to the B and B. He blessed us and led us in prayer. I mustered out a nervous "Salve". He also was smartly wearing galoshes under his vestments, which made me grin. When someone like the Bishop comes to town, you'd expect some fuss, but he quietly walked in with another priest, asked us some questions, hugged us and blessed us and left. I cried.
There's so much to be said about what happened today and what is going on here, but I'm absolutely exhausted and I have even more to do tomorrow, the day after, and every day until this place is fixed. I have faith, and not just the Catholic kind, that this can be fixed. When people get together in a disaster, sometimes it's said that it's sad that it took a disaster to unite a community, but that isn't the case in Monterosso. This is a small town of families and friends that has opened its arms to me. All I can do is pick up a shovel, cheers my friends that we are still alive and have something to save, and look towards what is done next. Liguria serves me well. I'm just as stubborn as they are.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The green awning in this photo on the left, Ciak, is the restaurant of our good friend Lorenzo and his family. There is no point in going through every person who owns every restaurant. We know them all.

"Monterosso non c'e piu" - Mayor Angelo Betta

I have pictures mixed in from before and after. To the right here are 2 photos of Via Roma. The street, as you can see, has flipped up to the second story of the buildings. The far right is the interior of La Cambusa restaurant.

Far left, a photo taken from a second story window of Ristorante Il Pozzo during the flood. Below is the Stella Marina beach, after the storm. Right, Via Roma, about 10 feet down from Il Pozzo. That arch was about 8 feet high, you can see how high the dirt is.

"There is no more Monterosso"

When we started Tuesday, we had no inclination it would turn out like this.

Manuel closed the Cantina for the season Sunday night, celebrating the end of a successful few months. Monday morning was to start cleaning and packing up the assorted “everything” that was there. The whole day was spent cleaning and boxing up the plates, silverware, bottles, and everything else you need to run a restaurant. As you can imagine, it was a huge amount of stuff. Manuel put it into the storage under the floor and locked up. Tuesday was to be a free day off and he'd come back and finish Wednesday. These photos were taken during the storm.

Tuesday morning I woke up at 7 am hearing wind whistling and screaming past our window. I went to the balcony to take the laundry in and could barely hold onto it. The rain started coming down in buckets shortly after. Manuel and I were going to spend the day at his parents, and we left the apartment at around 2. The window was leaking a bit and Manuel grumbled that we’d need to replace it. I worried about what seemed to be our biggest problem. The rain was that sort of sideways, sheeting rain that you can’t avoid, so he ran a few feet down to the garage and we decided to take the car down to his parents for lunch. We trudged through some heavy rain there, and didn’t give it a second thought.

At around 3:30 we noticed the flooding really getting serious behind the house. The only way I could describe it was a river. The first car parked in the street out front started to slide down into the sea. The so did the second. That’s when we realized how deadly serious this would be. We saw a silver SUV slide down, thinking it was ours. Today, we discovered it was still parked safe and sound amidst all the debris. We were one of the only cars left on a full street. Above photo is the boat dock in the Old Town, to the right, what used to be the piazza.

Via 4 Novembre was all we could see from the safety of Manuel’s parents’ 3rd floor apartment. The street was no longer a street, but full of water rushing down, carrying everything its wake. We have no TV or water, and the phones are spotty at best. The only way we could really assess the situation was by calling friends and family. Vernazza, best we can learn, has fared more or less the same as we have. Which means that, since it’s smaller and just one formerly charming street, it’s more of less destroyed. The other Cinque Terre are, thank God, fine. The train station in Vernazza is collapsed, I don't know much else. Levanto is ok, with some serious flooding, but it seems that this storm saved all her wrath for Monterosso al Mare, taking literally the naming of red mountains by the sea. To the left is in front of the B and B on Via 4 Novembre, where the cars wound up. The right used to be the paved road of Manuel's parents house. It was full of cars before the storm.

Around 8pm Manuel and Boris, Manuel’s brother in law, went to survey the damage. Manuel’s face when he came back said it all. The Cantina and the B&B were lost. The restaurant is ok save for some moderate water damage, but the Cantina is in a basement and is still under about 4 feet of water. It’s impossible to enter. All of our storage for the wine cellar is gone, all the food and dry storage for both restaurants and the B&B – we still can’t open the garages because the water is still too high.

We are safe, and I suppose that’s the most important thing. Yet, when you really see distruction like this and it affects your life so dramatically, it’s hard to remember what’s important. It’s hard to know where to begin again. It’s hard to realize that this is actually happening to you and yours.

The Old Town fared much worse then we did. The 2 streets that run down from the mountains into the sea turned into dangerous currents, reaching the second floor of every building in the picturesque sea front piazza. Those charming pastel colored buildings that leaned on each other like drunken sailors in celebration now lean on each other like mourning friends for support. The road is twisted up, broken and almost flipped in half, looming 8 feet in the air. Cars lie haunted and empty, gnarled in trees, covered in dirt. Every person we walked by this morning, on our way to survey the damage had lost, at minimum, their livelihood. More had lost their houses and one family lost a son. Manuel’s uncle and family in the Old Town had lost their store. A friend of ours, whose family was one of the more fortunite ones in Monterosso, greeted us this morning with a quiet, “We are poor now”.

They lost everything.

Seeing it today was like a war zone. The mud in the pictures reaches up to almost the tops of the doors. All windows were blown out. I don't know how long it will take to recover from this.

What makes this place so charmingly isolated is exactly what is hurting us now. These towering mountains and meandering creeks hadn’t seen rain all summer. The ground was dry and couldn’t absorb the 500 mm and more of rain we received in less then 3 hours. That’s about 20 inches. It’s unimaginable the devastation that there is here.

The water came from the mountains funneled through the few streets and narrow houses to the sea, which was raging and roaring up in return. The two met at the shore, on Via Fegina, drowning everything that there was left.

Monterosso, as I’ve said before, is small and we have very little variety of what we can buy here. In a disaster like this, that becomes dangerous. We have no tools and no equipment, like backhoes and caterpillars, that we need to start digging us out. We have no running water to start cleaning up. We have evacuated all the tourists via one train they had run this morning to Genoa and another boat that carried others to La Spezia. There are not enough supplies here for us, let alone them, and the next person who complains about leaving their rental car here is going to get thrown in the ocean. This is a national state of disaster, at a minimum.

The news isn’t showing very much up close of the complete destruction here because they can’t get here. Val di Vara valley had some damage, and the autostrada is completely collapsed, leaving us without a way in or out. The pictures the news is showing is people in other towns on the Liguria lamenting about the mess in their basement, and they only have a few inches of muddy water to clear out. If they could only imagine what it’s like here.

It’s incredibly difficult for me to describe what it feels like to see a community like this affected in such a way. These people work incredibly hard and have climbed up from a history of poverty and backbreaking work in the mountains and the sea to make this into a resort like setting and a tourist hot spot. It’s 1,000 people and I don’t know the exact statistics, but I can’t really call anyone the “lucky ones” right now. Everything is lost now, and rebuilding is something that I can’t even begin to imagine where we will start.

My mom said, “Start at the front door”, and we will, once we can get to it. For now we’ll sit here and clean up what we can, staring at the cruel sea and looming mountains that both give us an unparalleled view and unbelievable isolation. Those red mountains and sea that gave this town everything, for centuries, including it’s name, and have proved how quickly a natural disaster can take that away. That crystal blue, Ligurian sea and those same rolling green mountians are tranquil again today, and the sun is shining over twinkling waves, as if to show spite. They are not anyone's friends today.

Note: The photo's taken DURING the storm aren't mine. Manuel's cousin, Elia, sent them to me on Facebook.