We're refugees in these floods : FIRST-HAND

Sophie, a Dutch schoolgirl, has been evacuated
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Indy Lifestyle Online
WE LIVE in a small town called Millingen, and we're very near the Rijn river. The flood waters are rising quickly at the moment - the water's right up to the top of the dykes protecting the town, and our house is in great danger of damage. Everything now depends on the dykes and whether they hold. I was at school on Monday when we were told we had to evacuate our homes. At about one o'clock we went home to pack everything we could, and carry what we couldn't take with us upstairs into the attic of our house.

It was a very hectic time. My father sells cars and he had to move about 50 or 60 of them as quickly as possible to safe ground, otherwise they would have been washed away. My mother and I stayed at the house and tried to get our furniture and belongingsupstairs. I was so worried that my books and my diary were going to get damaged. I hope they are still there when I go back. I have had the diary for years and it is very precious to me.

Some people took it all calmly, but others were very upset, they just took their kids and went. My mother had to get my grandmother out of her house before she came back to help us. She's 80, and had to get her stuff upstairs too. So I was in charge of my brother who's nine and my two sisters who are 12 and 15.

We were meant to leave by midnight but we stayed until 5am: we spent the whole night getting as much upstairs as we could. The gas had been disconnected and so it was very cold. It was almost like a cruel game, as if someone was testing how fast we couldget everything moved in time. By that time we were very scared. The water was going up and in the end I said we would have to go. As we left we saw soldiers checking the houses to see if anybody was still in them. I think we were almost the last to go.

Some people refused to leave. They are all older people, about 70 or more. They have lived here for years and they think if they leave now and come back to find nothing here, then carrying on is not worth it. But they have to leave or they'll die. I don't know if they are still there or not.

On the road as people were leaving everyone was in a hurry. Their moods were very different. There were people who knew it was only a precaution and thought nothing would happen, and there were others who were crying and very scared because they didn't know if they would have a home any more. It was really silent in the car as we drove away. No one wanted to say anything - it was hard to know what to say.

Many families have been evacuated from Millingen and taken to hotels, like the one we are staying in here in Nijmegen. When we got here people were looking at us like we were refugees and thinking: "Oh, poor people". At least we have kept some privacy bybeing here, but I am finding it very hard to think about other things. I went to school again but I couldn't keep my mind on my work because I am still upset.

Now everything depends on whether the dyke holds or not. Floods here can do a lot of damage - I don't know if I'll go back and find that our house is ruined. Will there be mud and water everywhere? Will all the plates be broken in the kitchen? Will the couch be in the front garden? This feeling of not knowing what is happening to your house is so horrible. This is our home with all our things in it and I have good memories which will be ruined. I was thinking about my guitar today. I've only had it a year, but I'm really attached to it. I hope it's OK. All we can do is hope.

Interview by Matthew Brace

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