Flooding in Balkans triggers landslides, disturbs minefields | News | DW | 18.05.2014
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Flooding in Balkans triggers landslides, disturbs minefields

The worst flooding in the Balkans in more than a century has triggered landslides across Serbia and Bosnia. It has also moved some of the estimated one million land mines left over from the region's war in the 1990s.

Authorities warned that while the torrential rains have stopped, water levels would keep rising into Sunday night with the danger of flood surges along rivers.

Thousands of people have been forced from their homes and the floods have threatened to inundate Serbia's main power plant, which supplies electricity to a third of the country and most of the capital, Belgrade. Some 100,00 people in Serbia and Bosnia are without power.

Some forty people are reported to have died with the number expected to rise as recovery operations continue. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Sunday that 12 bodies had been found so far in Obrenovac, site of the coal-fired Nikola Tesla power plant.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has been raising the issue for several days as he played in the Rome Masters. After beating Rafael Nadal in the final on Sunday he said: "I want to make a a special dedication to my country Serbia, which is suffering a lot with flooding."

More than 20,000 people have been forced from their homes in Serbia.

The cities of Orasje and Brcko in northeast Bosnia, where the Sava River forms the natural border with Croatia, were in danger of being overwhelmed. Officials in Brcko ordered six villages to be evacuated.

Civil protection commander Fahrudin Solak said the Sava River was spilling over part of the flood barrier in Orasje while emergency workers tried desperately to reinforce it with sandbags.

Large parts of eastern Croatia were underwater too, with several villages cut off and hundreds of people still fleeing the flooded zone in boats and trucks. Refugees were being housed in sports halls and schools, and aid centers were set up to distribute medicine, food, blankets and clothing.

The Bosnian army said it had 1,500 troops helping on the ground. But many bridges have been washed away, leaving communities dependent on airlifts. Helicopters from the European Union, Slovenia and Croatia have been helping in rescue efforts.

Landslides and land mines

The rain caused an estimated 2,100 landslides that covered roads, homes and whole villages throughout Bosnia. Another thousand landslides were reported in Serbia.

The deluge has also unleashed a new danger from land mines, of which an estimated million have been left over from Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Nearly 120,000 of the unexploded devices remain in more than 9,400 carefully marked minefields. But the weather has toppled warning signs and, in many cases, dislodged the mines themselves.

Beyond the immediate danger to people in Bosnia, loose mines could also create an international problem if floodwaters carry the explosives downstream. Experts warned that mines could travel through half of southeast Europe or get stuck in the turbines of a hydroelectric dam.

jm/tj (AFP, dpa, AP)

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