Monday, 19 May 2014

Death toll rises as worst floods in over a century hit Balkans

More than two dozen people are feared dead in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia after the worst floods in more than a century.

Tens of thousands have fled their homes as several months of rain fell in a few days and rivers burst their banks. Landslides have buried houses.

In one Bosnian town alone, Doboj, the mayor said more than 20 bodies had been taken to the mortuary.

In Serbia, an outer suburb of the capital Belgrade has been inundated.

"More than 20 corpses have so far been brought to the city's morgue," the mayor of Doboj, in the north-east, was quoted as saying.

The republic's police chief, Gojko Vasic, said the situation had been particularly difficult in Doboj "because the flood waters acted as a tsunami, three to four metres high. No-one could have resisted."

Observed from the air, almost a third of Bosnia, mostly its north-east corner, resembled a huge muddy lake, with houses, roads and rail lines submerged, the Associated Press reports.

According to a spokesman for Bosnia's Security Ministry, about a million people - more than a quarter of the country's population - live in the affected area.

One of the worst-hit areas in Bosnia is the eastern town of Bijeljina where rescue teams are trying to transport 10,000 people to safety.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters the first bodies had been recovered in Obrenovac, the worst-hit area to the south-west of the capital, and he feared more would be found.

But he said the number of deaths would not be made public until the waters had receded.

In Bosnia, a third of the country is under water, mostly in northern and eastern areas. A quarter of the four million population live in the affected areas.

At least 19 people have died in the flooding, which has also led to the displacement of landmines.

Heavy landslides have moved landmines and minefields from the 1992-95 war and warning signs at some 9,000 spots.

It is estimated that some 120,000 landmines remain in Bosnia.

About 600 people have been killed by mines in the country since 1995.

Sarajevo Mine Action Centre official Sasa Obradovic said: "Besides the mines, a lot of weapons were thrown into the rivers, lying idle for almost 20 years."

Croatia is also fighting to cope with the effects of the flooding, with two confirmed deaths and earth walls being built along the Sava and Danube rivers.

In Serbia, 12 bodies were recovered in the flooded town of Obrenovac, about 20 miles south-west of the capital, Belgrade.

"What happened to us happens once in a thousand years," Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said at a press conference yesterday.

"We have managed to avoid the worst catastrophe thanks to good organisation.

"The end is not close, but today is much better than yesterday."

The countries stand along the Sava river. Its swollen tributaries made bridges disappear in minutes, while roads and railways were cut within hours. The tops of traffic signs were just visible yesterday under three or four metres of water.

Monday 19 May 2014


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