News / Europe

    At Least 37 Dead, Thousands Displaced in Massive Balkan Floods

    Serbian army soldiers evacuate a boy from a flooded house in the town of Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, May 17, 2014.
    Serbian army soldiers evacuate a boy from a flooded house in the town of Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, May 17, 2014.
    VOA News
    Soldiers, police and volunteers battled to protect power plants in Serbia from rising flood waters on Sunday as the death toll from the Balkan region's worst rainfall in more than a century rose to at least 37.
     
    Twelve bodies were recovered from the worst-hit Serbian town of Obrenovac, 30 kilometers southwest of the capital, Belgrade.
     
    “The situation is catastrophic,” Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said, and warned that the death toll would likely rise.
     
    About 300 landslides, triggered by unprecedented rains in Bosnia, have left thousands of people homeless, officials said Sunday, while thousands more have fled their homes in neighboring Croatia and Serbia.

    Throughout hilly Bosnia, floods are triggering landslides covering roads, homes and whole villages. Stranded villagers often are being rescued by helicopter.

    Three months' worth of rain fell on the region in a three-day burst, creating the worst floods since rainfall measurements began 120 years ago.
     
    • People build a dam made up of sandbags by the bank of the Sava river in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia, May 17, 2014.
    • A man rows a boat past flooded ambulance vehicles in the flooded town of Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, May 17, 2014.
    • Army soldiers evacuate people in amphibious vehicles in the flooded town of Obrenovac, southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, May 17, 2014.
    • Police officers carry a man from a military helicopter during flood evacuation from Obrenovac, Serbia, May 17, 2014.
    • Members of the army carry food and water supplies for people stranded, due to the floods, in the Bosnian town of Maglaj, May 16, 2014.
    • A man drives his bicycle away from a flooded area in the village of Dvorovi, near Bijeljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, May 17, 2014.

    Russian cargo planes carrying boats, generators and food joined rescue teams from around Europe and thousands of local volunteers in evacuating people and building flood defenses after the River Sava, swollen by days of torrential rain, burst its banks.
     
    Rains eased and flood waters receded on Sunday in some of the worst-hit areas of Serbia and Bosnia, but the River Sava was forecast to continue rising.

    Pope Francis has asking the world to pray for victims of the flooding. In his weekly address at the Vatican he said that he feels personal closeness to those living through pain and trouble.
     
    Power plants threatened

    Serbia's EPS power utility said a fresh flood wave from the Sava and Mlava rivers threatened the Nikola Tesla and Kostolac power plants. Capacity has already been cut back at the Nikola Tesla plant in Obrenovac, Serbia's largest.
     
    The Mlava overwhelmed sandbag flood defenses on Sunday morning near Kostolac, threatening to flood coal mines and the plant itself. Power plant workers joined soldiers and police in trying to divert the water, digging up a road in one area.
     
    Villagers nearby were evacuated, many of them refugees from the 1990s wars in Bosnia and Croatia. Kostolac currently covers 20 percent of Serbia's electricity needs.
     
    Flooding had already cut Serbian power generation by 40 percent, forcing the cash-strapped country to boost imports.
     
    The economic impact of the floods is likely to be huge, devastating the agricultural sector vital to both the Serbian and Bosnian economies.

     
    Macedonians collect humanitarian aid of food, hygienic products, clothing and bottled water intended for the flooded regions in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Skopje, Macedonia, May 18, 2014.Macedonians collect humanitarian aid of food, hygienic products, clothing and bottled water intended for the flooded regions in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Skopje, Macedonia, May 18, 2014.
    x
    Macedonians collect humanitarian aid of food, hygienic products, clothing and bottled water intended for the flooded regions in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Skopje, Macedonia, May 18, 2014.
    Macedonians collect humanitarian aid of food, hygienic products, clothing and bottled water intended for the flooded regions in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Skopje, Macedonia, May 18, 2014.

    “These are the kind of waters not seen in 1,000 years, let alone 100,” Prime Minister Vucic told a televised cabinet session.
     
    Officials say about a million people — more than a quarter of the country's population — live in the worst-affected areas.

    The hillside village of Horozovina, close to the northeastern town of Tuzla, was practically split in two by a landslide that swallowed eight houses. More than 100 other houses were under threat from the restless earth. Residents told stories of narrow escapes from injury or death.

    "I am homeless. I have nothing left, not even a toothpick," said one resident, Mesan Ikanovic. "I ran out of the house barefoot, carrying children in my arms."

    Vucic said 12 bodies had been recovered from Obrenovac after waters dropped from a peak of some three meters. At least three more have been reported dead elsewhere in Serbia.
     
    In Bosnia, 19 people were confirmed dead by Saturday, with nine bodies recovered from the northeastern town of Doboj after what the regional police chief described as a ``tsunami'' of water 3-4 meters high.
     
    A Reuters cameraman at the scene said half the town was still submerged. Bosnian soldiers distributed food and medical supplies by truck, boat and bulldozer. Cranes lifted medical workers into the top floors of some homes and removed stranded residents from others.
     
    Serbs forced from homes

    Zeljka Cvijanovic, prime minister of Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic, compared the devastation to Bosnia's 1992-95 war, in which 100,000 people died.
     
    “The damage is such that we cannot recall even after the war,” she told reporters.
     
    In Serbia, more than 20,000 people have been forced from their homes. Officials there fear more flooding later Sunday as floodwaters travel down the Sava and reach the country.

    Serbian officials said that the flood level might be lower than initially expected, because the river broke barriers upstream in Croatia and Bosnia. Experts said they expect Sava floodwaters to rise for two more days, then subside.

    In Croatia, the government said one person had died and two were missing in flooded Sava river villages in an eastern corner of the country near Bosnia and Serbia. The army used amphibious vehicles to help evacuate some 3,000 people.
     
    ‘I carried my kids out on my back, then waited 12 hours to be rescued myself,” said 40-year-old Obrenovac resident Dragan Todorovic, who spent the night in a Belgrade sports hall with dozens of other families. “The house was new, built two years ago for 100,000 euros. What now?”

    Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    May 21, 2014 4:59 PM
    Let them call on their God for help because that rainfall is behond man's control (God have mercy on them)

    by: Navi from: Los angeles
    May 19, 2014 12:35 PM
    Climate is changing, technology is changing, people are changing. If that was natural disaster thats only the beginning, if it was man made rain by HAARP again its only the beginning

    by: Dusan from: Canada
    May 18, 2014 1:25 PM
    I would like to thank the House of Israel. Thank You.
    Serbs never forget friends. i write this with tears in my eyes.
    Thank you - that is all i want to say.

    by: salome wa peter from: kenya
    May 18, 2014 7:52 AM
    This is a natural disaster which can occur anywhere else at any time.whoever is willing to assist,please come forward and rescue these peopple.They have lost all their possesions and are entirely at the mercy of you and me.

    by: Duane Kimball from: NE USA
    May 18, 2014 7:10 AM
    What is it about climate change that Americans are so slow to understand?
    In Response

    by: Shawn B from: Marion, Indiana
    May 22, 2014 1:16 PM
    This is truly tragic for thousands, my heart goes out to them, and my financial support does also. Let's not make this a political debate and insult contest. If you can help by means other than boosting your political agenda, please, do.
    In Response

    by: Leslie Graham from: Brisbane
    May 19, 2014 1:29 AM
    They fail to understand that the loss of 75% of Arctic sea ice volume in the last 35 years due to man-made global warming has affected the course of the Jet Stream - among other effects.
    I watched this whole storm developing over the last week or so.
    This level of event is already happening more and more often and now that the PDO has switched and the heat that has been building up in the deep oceans is coming back to the surface this year it's only going to get worse in the next 18 months.
    Stand by for massive flooding in some regions and severe heat and drought in others. Exactly what the climate scientists have been trying to warn us about for over thirty years now.
    Now it's happening and some blinkered fools are STILL trying to deny it.
    Pathological denial in the face of shocking reality is a common trait among the weak-minded and cowardly.
    In Response

    by: Dave from: Canada
    May 18, 2014 2:07 PM
    You think the Jetstream is a result of American mentality regarding climate change?? You're a special lil thing aren't you.

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