Éric Florès, the head of the Hérault fire brigade, has just returned from a three-week mission as an expert sent by the European Union to this small country wedged between Ukraine and Romania, and which fears to be Vladimir Putin’s next target.
“It is the poorest country in Europe, which has the overall area of Languedoc-Roussillon, and which with 2.8 million inhabitants managed to welcome 300,000 Ukrainian refugees in the days following the attack of February 27. On the spot, we were told that this exodus had caused a traffic jam on the national road where the cars were bumper to bumper for a hundred kilometers.
Director of Sdis 34, and boss of the Hérault firefighters, Eric Florès returned this weekend from a three-week mission to Moldova, where he was appointed as an expert by the European Union. “I have been following a training course, entirely in English, since 2008, and I am part of a pool of several hundred experts whom the EU can call on in the event of a crisis. This is how I I was chosen to be the leader of this detachment.”
110 refugees housed in this country the size of Languedoc-Roussillon
With three Finns, a Norwegian, a Latvian and a Romanian, he arrived in Chinisau, the Moldovan capital, on March 21. “A large part of the refugees had already left the country with bus or train convoys to Romania, but there are still 110,000 refugees, hosted in families or unoccupied accommodation: they do not want to stray too far from Ukraine, because they hope to come back.”
Main mission of European experts: “Anticipate a crisis to come, with the capture by the Russians of Odessa, forty kilometers from the Moldavian border, which would involve according to the scenarios between 500,000 and 700,000 additional refugees in one week.” To respond to this, it is necessary to be able to urgently create eleven camps on Moldovan territory. “My job is to identify equipment needs, to launch the request with the European coordination and response center, and then to manage the arrival of this equipment sent by European countries.”
Aid sent by 19 European countries
A strange inventory à la Prévert: 25 French generators, 1000 Belgian beds, a full camp for 500 people from Italy, two Portuguese truckloads of tents, a German truckload of heaters. Help sent by 19 European countries, with lots of solutions to find.
“The objective is for the equipment to work. The French, Spanish or Portuguese tents are all set up in different ways. The Finnish tents had an integrated wood heater, which is disconcerting. We received 12 Danish ambulances with defibrillators, when you have to redo the connections, it’s complicated for a Moldovan who doesn’t speak Danish.”
Ready to leave the capital in ten minutes
Given the military evolution, and the absence of an offensive on the Odessa sector, the eleven camps have not been set up, and the equipment is currently stored in warehouses. “It’s a funny atmosphere” says Eric Flores.
“In this kind of situation, you don’t know when anything can happen, and you have to prepare for the worst. We had two cars ready, with two days’ worth of food, and we had to be able to leave the capital in ten minutes. On the surface, everything is fine, people are walking, shopping, and I haven’t identified the slightest stress. But the idea and the scenario of the invasion of Moldova by the Russians is in everyone’s head. he is a small country, which is not a member of NATO, and which has asked to be integrated into Europe, because for them, Europe means peace. It is one of the countries that we must be ready to help.”