BLAME GAMES AND CRISIS PR

by Stamen Manolov

"To put a hood when the rain stops" is a Bulgarian saying that exemplifies measures that are taken too late to have any ef ect. The same happened during the flooding in Biser.

Instead of asking the uncomfortable questions, most of the media preferred to run after coverage hungry politicians. Even on the very day of the disaster, the reports from Biser were less about the victims and the destruction and more about Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

In the morning of the flood Borisov complained that the expensive Cougar helicopters stationed in a near military base could not help in the rescue of stranded people. The reason? The choppers lacked anti-frost systems and couldn't fl y in harsh winter weather. As usual, Borisov blamed his predecessors, in that case the government of NDSV, or the Simeon II National Movement (in which he himself was the top cop), as it had bought the "defective" Cougars.

While amazed Bulgarians were still munching that and reports of casualties started to arrive, Boyko Borisov appeared again on TV. He, personally, had ordered two Cougars to be air-borne to help the people of Biser. Despite the risks, he himself boarded one of them, together with Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. The choppers took off and saved several lives. Several days later, Borisov halfheartedly admitted that the Cougars had always been capable to fl y in winter. He excused himself with some "obscure manuals." Few of the media reported that.

The ranks of senior statesmen that visited the flooded village included also President Rosen Plevneliev and the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response Kristalina Georgieva, who is backed by Boyko Borisov's GERB. Other parties tried to cash in on the disaster, too. After the disastrous effect of the winter on national infrastructure and the tragedy of Biser, opposition DPS, or Movement for Rights and Freedoms, publicly considered a no-confidence vote. Ironically, it was under DPS's own Emel Etem, the former minister for disasters and extraordinary situations, when in 2007 the worst and deadliest flooding before the one in Biser occurred.

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