By David & Angela Hudson
We are all aware of the recent National disaster that struck the Vega Baja. For us the day started off well with Angie chatting to her sister in Oxford saying that we had survived a huge thunder storm and although we had water all around us we expected it to soon disappear.
One hour later, in just four minutes, the water was coming into the bedroom, front door and the bathroom.
We were told to abandon the house only to get 200 metres up the road when very strong currents swept us into deep water.
As I pulled Angie out of the car, having force the door open, the car filled up with water. Fighting against the current we hung onto the front of the car for about an hour.
As I am 80 and Angie 76 our strength was giving way. We agreed that as we were together it was the best way to die.
Suddenly we saw a man in the middle of the road – we shouted for help. Tomas afterwards told me that he did not think he could get to us but risking his life he reached us. Inch by inch we fought the strong current and got us to safety and into his in-laws flooded house. The father-in-law told us that 500 of his sheep had died in the flooding. We were in the cold water for 8 hours before the Military Emergency Unit rescued us.
Passing our flooded house we were taken to the Refugee Centre in the monastery half way up the mountain behind Orihuela, a few metres from the castle.
When we arrived we only had the wet cloths we stood up in having lost everything.
Quickly new cloths arrived with shoes, towels and toiletries including a shaver, the men had the same. They also gave me a mochila (bag) to keep things in, then a hot shower and a hot meal.
There were shattered people all around us with their own horror stories in many languages. Shock utter shock and for the next ten days we were the oldest people there.
I have been in many Gota Fria but this was something that I have never experience before. The speed,. the destruction, the shear amount of water left me unable to cope. The mental and physical demands left me unable to protect my wife leaving me broken and exhausted. It was something that we were not prepared for.
I ran a shelter for the homeless in Oxford in the 60s but never expected to be on the receiving end. In the early hours when the emergency units were stretched to breaking point those of us who were saved from death had a special relationship, having all gone through the same experience.
There were broken men everywhere and as Angie could see that the men were not eating she spoke to them like their mum telling them to eat something because their blood sugar would climb and they would lose energy without any food.
Five days after people would breakdown crying, very depressed as those of us who were perhaps a little stronger would step in to give them a hug and listen to their story.
The first thing to go is your dignity – men and women sharing washrooms and bedrooms.
The Cruz Roja were angels. Their compassion and willingness to listen to our stories meant that we not alone. This was a feeling that was to come back many times taking us both to a dark place.
A Belgian was talking to two English people in a Orihuela car park when water came gushing in. Climbing onto a ledge he watched his new car float pass him. At 10am the two brits were helicoptered off leaving him alone. As time went by he began to get very cold. He was finally lifted off at 7pm some nine hours later.
We finally got him to talk when he suddenly got lots texts from people he said that he did not know. He didn’t realise that he had so many friends. Being very depressed he suddenly perked up when one friend said that she would leave her house in Malaga to pick him up at midday and take him back to Malaga until his house was ready. When he left I gave him a hug as he whispered that it was exactly what he needed.
Angie didn’t have any shoes and her feet were cut to ribbons so the next day she received medical attention. The doctors insisted that they examine Angie saying that she could lose her toes. The toes were black with deep cuts full of yellow puss so she needed the dressing changed twice a day and was pumped full of pills.
On Saturday 14th the Santamera dam broke causing a ten foot wave of water to hit Molins. Only the top of the lemon trees were visible from the military vehicle rescuing trapped people. A friend, Kelvin, had to bag up over hundred chickens that had died in the flood.
We had Spanish speaking Muslims from Morocco, French speaking Algerians,lots of poor Spanish, Belgium and 7 English people.
My only way to get help was to walk down the mountain on a path so dangerous that Taxis would not drive up it. Not having a phone or money this was my task and when the phone signal was finally repaired I was able to get even more action.
Having lost our three year old car we could not get to our house and the walking up and down the mountain was taking its toll.
I was desperate because at the end of the week we were being thrown out of the shelter onto the streets.
On hearing our strory, Camelo, who owns the Bar Columbus in Torrevieja, immediately offered his apartment for as long as we needed it and he also arranged a car. He then travelled to Orihuela to pick us up and took us both back for a meal and to hand over the car.
We were completely overwhelmed by the compassions showed to us by so many Spanish people. When we left the monastery there were so many Muslim women and Spanish men and women who hugged and kissed us and wished us good luck, saying that we were good people – nice!
The doctor treating Angie said that he often passes our house in Las Norias and would call in for a chat. He gave us a letter for treatment at the Torrevieja Hospital but when we attended, both they and the Centro Salud Torrevieja refused. Not the standard that Orihuela has for the elderly.
After three weeks the effects of that day is still very raw with us and with our neighbours. Speaking to Antonio, who is half my age, a look of shock and despair comes over his face as he talks about it. A young couple down the road with a little boy spent all summer doing up the place only for it to be destroyed. Our neighbour cannot live in his house because, like us, he has lost everything and cannot bear to go back.
It is not the money it is that your life’s work has been destroyed in less than the blink of an eye. Throughout the horror Princess Di’s motto has given us the strength to go on.
Life is mostly froth and bubbles Two things stand alone Kindness in another's troubles Courage in your own
As Angie says. “it’s all froth and bubbles.”