18 May 2014

Balkan states devastated by worst flooding in a century

The worst floods in more than a century have killed at least 20 people in Serbia and neighbouring Bosnia, with one report putting the death toll at 25.

Two Russian cargo planes carrying food, generators and rescue boats landed in Serbia on Sunday as part of a relief effort as water levels continued to rise in the capital Belgrade.

Thousands across Bosnia and Herzegovina were being housed in schools and army barracks after being evacuated from their homes.

Reuters reported that the flooding was threatening power stations in Serbia and volunteers were joining the army and emergency services in building sandbag barriers to protect them.

We have nothing left, nothing. What shall we do? What shall we do? I do not know Zlata Ahmetspahic, flooding victim

And the flooding reportedly triggered hundreds of landslides, submerging houses, roads and whole villages. Several villages around the central Bosnian town of Zenica were completely destroyed by landslides and flooding, the Associated Press said.

The agency reported that residents were evacuated from the flooded areas by helicopter and brought to army barracks in the town.

‘Nothing left’

One flood victim, Zlata Ahmetspahic said the flood had destroyed her home and everything she owned. “The water surged into the houses, only a sliver of the roof was visible from under water. We have nothing left, nothing. What shall we do? What shall we do? I do not know,” she said.

Many people, like Ahmetspahic have lost homes they had only just rebuilt after the war, which claimed 100,000 lives and devastated the impoverished country.

Bosnian authorities estimated that around a million people, which is over a quarter of the total population, live in the affected area.

Bosnia’s refugee minister, Adil Osmanovic, said that the country was facing catastrophe with more flooding expected later on Sunday as rivers swell at high tide.

In the worst-hit Serbian town of Obrenovac, waters receded overnight, easing rescue efforts. Authorities say there are fatalities after huge parts of the town, about 30 km (18 miles) southwest of Belgrade, were submerged under water.

“I carried my kids out on my back, then waited 12 hours to be rescued myself,” 40-year-old Obrenovac resident Dragan Todorovic, who spent the night in a Belgrade sports hall with dozens of other families, told Reuters. “The house was new, built two years ago for 100,000 euros. What now?”