Historic floods claim lives, wreak havoc in Bosnia, Serbia | News | DW | 17.05.2014
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Historic floods claim lives, wreak havoc in Bosnia, Serbia

Flooding continues to claim lives and devastate villages in Bosnia and Serbia. Three months' worth of rain has fallen in three days, the worst downpour in 120 years.

Rescue workers on Saturday were evacuating some 10,000 people from the northeastern Bosnian town of Bijeljina on the Serbian border as heavy rain left villages along the Sava River submerged in water.

So far, the floods have claimed more than 20 lives in Bosnia, according to officials. But the toll could rise as the waters recede and additional bodies emerge.

"More than 20 corpses have so far been brought to the city's morgue," Obren Petrovic, the mayor of northern town Doboj, told Bosnia's FTV public broadcaster.

Rescue efforts have been complicated by some 300 landslides, which have buried dozens of houses and cars. Roads have been rendered impassable and bridges have crumbled.

Bosnia's northeastern and central regions have been hit the hardest by the storms. Admir Malagic, a spokesman for the Security Ministry, said that one million people live in the affected area. That's approximately one-fifth of the country's overall population.

According to the Red Cross, Bosnian authorities have declared a state of emergence and evacuated people from 14 municipalities. That includes Doboj, Maglaj, Brcko District, Olovo, Lukavac, Kladanj, Srebrenica, Gradacac, and Zvornik among other communities.

State of emergency in Serbia

A state of emergency has also been declared in neighboring Serbia. The town of Obrenovac, located on the Sava River, has been hit the hardest. More than 4,000 of its 30,000 inhabitants have forced flee the city so far.

"We began extracting bodies," said Predrag Maric, Serbia's emergency services chief. But he refused to disclose the number until the situation was clearer. Authorities have confirmed eight deaths nationwide so far.

Meanwhile, volunteers and rescue workers in the city of Sabac were putting sandbags along the banks of the Sava River. A major chemical factory is located in Sabac. In the central Serbian town of Lucani, a weapons factory was flooded.

Authorities have begun evacuating Baric, a southern suburb of the capital Belgrade, in anticipation of flooding there.

Serbia's energy system was hit hard by the storms, with its capacity reduced by 40 percent and 95,000 homes left without power. In Belgrade, shops were reportedly sold out of bottled water on Saturday, after rumors spread that tap water was tainted with bacteria. Authorities have denied these reports.

Rescue teams have arrived from Russia and the European Union to assist with the relief efforts.

slk/jm (AP, Reuters, dpa)