Albanians refuse to leave home despite flooding
Heavy rains have forced the authorities to open the gates of the dam at the hydroelectric power station at Vau i Dejes, flooding several villages near the Adriatic sea.
Surrounded by raging waters, the villagers of Obot in northern Albania are determined to stay put to secure their modest homes, which were flooded after heavy rains pelted this rural region for days.
"If God has decided that I should die here, let it be. At least I will die in my house, with the only cow that I still have," 60-year-old Gjon Cepi said somberly from the first floor of his little house.
The ground floor is already flooded and only the contours of several pieces of furniture are visible under the murky waters.
Obot, a small village with about 450 inhabitants, ten kilometres (six miles) north from Shkodra, the main town in the area, has come to national attention after disastrous floods swallowed more than ten thousand hectares (25,000 acres) of this Albanian farming region.
A group of around a hundred villagers has refused to be evacuated from their homes, despite calls by the authorities.
The four kilometre-long road that links the village to the rest of the country has also been flooded. Military units take more than 30 minutes to reach Obot by boat.
The crossing itself is difficult, due to strong currents and numerous tree trunks and animal corpses floating in the water.
Visitors to Obot are greeted by an eerie silence only occasionally broken by the cries of animals in distress. Rain continues to pelt the village for hours on end.
Old Cepi could not accept the idea he had to leave his home, as everything his family has ever had was invested there.
"[The earnings of] my son's ten years of working in Italy are totally annihilated," he said.
In a neighbouring house, Florian Franajn - who has been working in Greece - said he had invested 15,000 euros (£13,370) to plant decorative trees and a greenhouse to grow flowers.
"All was lost in just three hours," 30-year old Franajn sighed.
He said he did not expect state compensations for his loss.
"People have lost their houses and their cattle here. Who will think about my flowers and my trees? Only God will help me," he said.
Army captain Gani Boceri said that his people were going door-to-door to convince inhabitants to leave their homes.
"But there are some who want to remain. There are others who want to return the next day to see what has happened to their houses," Bocari said.
With his 800 soldiers, Bocari's job was to assist and evacuate the flood-stricken with their meagre belongings.
"The real damage of this catastrophe will be seen in the weeks to come, when the water withdraws," predicted Marin Pena, a schoolmaster in Obot.
Heavy rains have forced the authorities to open the gates of the dam at the hydroelectric power station Vau i Dejes, causing flooding of several villages near the Adriatic sea.
Arjan Starova, Albania's deputy defence minister, who visited the flooded region, promised that the state would compensate material damages.
The prime minister, Sali Berisha, who visited Shkodra on Monday, praised the fact that no one had died in the floods.
But the Albanian leader added he was worried about economic consequences of the floods in the fertile region considered as Albania's breadbasket.