Floods affect a quarter of Balkans

May 20, 2014 - 8:37:35 am

MAGLAJ/KRUPANJ: Bosnia said yesterday that more than a quarter of its 4 million people had been affected by the worst floods to hit the Balkans in living memory, comparing the “terrifying” destruction to that of the country’s 1992-95 war.

The extent of the devastation became apparent in Serbia too, as waters receded in some of the worst-hit areas to reveal homes toppled or submerged in mud, trees felled and villages strewn with the rotting corpses of livestock.

The regional death toll reached more than 40, after the heaviest rainfall since records began 120 years ago caused rivers to burst their banks and triggered hundreds of landslides.

“The consequences ... are terrifying,” Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija told a news conference. “The physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused by the war.”

Lagumdzija said more than 100,000 houses and other buildings in Bosnia were no longer fit to use and that over a million people had been cut off from clean water supplies.

“During the war, many people lost everything,” he said. “Today, again they have nothing.”

His remarks threw into sharp relief the extent of the challenge now facing the cash-strapped governments of both Bosnia and Serbia.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the cost in Serbia would run to hundreds of millions of euros. President Tomislav Nikolic appealed for outside aid. “We expect huge support, because not many countries have experienced such a catastrophe,” he said.

Even as the crisis eased in some areas, a new flood wave from the swollen River Sava threatened others, notably Serbia’s largest power plant, the Nikola Tesla complex, 30 km southwest of the capital Belgrade.

In Bosnia, Assistant Security Minister Samir Agic told Reuters that up to 35,000 people had been evacuated by helicopter, boat and truck. As many as 500,000 had left their homes of their own accord, he said, in the kind of human displacement not seen since more than a million were driven out by ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war two decades ago. Reuters

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