I Still Can’t Take the Train
More than a month ago there were some significant floods going on in the middle of the country, hitting especially hard in Sabirabad and Salyan. These aren’t the best pictures ever, but you get the idea. The impact on livelihoods of people here is pretty intense. Thousands of people had flooded homes and destroyed land. The area was a prime agricultural production zone in Azerbaijan, and it also happened to carry through it the train tracks from Astara to Baku (through Lenkoran):
Forty districts have been hit by floods following an increase in the water level of the River Kur in the past few weeks. About 20,000 houses have been flooded, 300 of which have been ruined and 2,000 houses are in a parlous state, while 76,000 hectares of arable land and pasture are under water.
Even for a few Peace Corps Volunteers, this was a serious problem. Some of them were evacuated from their communities because the flooding had destroyed their homes. Days and even weeks passed by as they weren’t able to return.
Right now, the more than 1,300 people from Sabirabad living at the Shirvan tent camp have more immediate concerns. In addition to the tent camp, some 250 to 300 IDPs from Sabirabad region are temporarily living in a technical college and roughly 150 persons in a high school in Shirvan.
But we need to talk about more important things. There are two issues that are really causing me some grief. First, there is no train from Lenkoran to Baku right now. The tracks wind through Sabirabad and they were heavily damaged. It turns out that empty promises by the Ministry of Emergency Situations isn’t the remedy for that. And when they say, “we didn’t expect this situation,” you start to wonder if they’ll ever fix the railway. I really don’t like traveling by bus here, so the train was a much better option. The second issue that I’m concerned about is watermelon. I’ve been told by the locals that Sabirabad and Salyan and the surrounding area had the best watermelons around. Until now, when the floods killed off the watermelon crops. The weather is becoming stiflingly hot around here, and a cool slice of watermelon would really do the trick. Hopefully it’s not as dire a situation as everyone expects it to be.