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Serbia Declares 3 Days of Mourning for Flood Victims

  • Zlatica Hoke

Serbia has declared three days of mourning for more victims of the worst floods to hit the country in more than a century. Severe flooding this month has killed at least 40 people in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced Tuesday that May 21, 22 and 23 will be days of national mourning for the victims of the most severe flooding ever recorded in the region. He did not sound optimistic.

"We thought that because of the weather conditions, and because the water levels of the Sava River were dropping, that we were close to the end, but unfortunately the so-called backwater and the wet dams - by this I mean the fact that sandbags are filled with water - are causing more problems," said Vucic.

Serbia has been the hardest hit in the region. At least 30,000 people have been evacuated, but many more are believed to have fled the impacted area.

"In the scale of the material damage, we have been hit 10 times more than all the other countries in the region, and I hope this will not show in the number of victims," said Vucic.

The United States has sent a team of experts to Serbia to assess the damage and has promised 26 tons of humanitarian aid to the Balkans, including rescue boats, cots, blankets, portable kitchens, generators and water pumps.

Serbian Minister of Economy Dusan Vujovic welcomed the United Nations relief supplies that arrived this week from Italy.

"I expect that this equipment and food supplies will get to the places where they are needed in the shortest possible time. I have the cargo lists of the delivered aid, and they will be given to the organizations dealing with the coordination and distribution of the aid," said Vujovic.

In neighboring Bosnia, the government says it has evacuated more than a quarter of its 4 million people. But some refuse to leave their homes. Nevenka Djuric lost hers once before, during the Bosnian war.

"In two days, everything was destroyed that we had managed to rebuild since we returned. They say go from here, but where can we go now? We'll accommodate you in another village, they say. But we have cattle. What can we do with them? We make our living out of them," said Djuric.

Bosnian authorities are also warning about the danger of land mines left over from the three-year war of the early 1990s that could have been dislodged by the flooding.
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