Catastrophic floods hit Bosnia, Serbia

2014-05-16 22:12
Members of the Bosnian armed forces evacuate residents from a building surrounded by flood waters in the village of Topcic Polje, near the central Bosnian town of Zenica. (Elvis Barukcic, AFP)

Members of the Bosnian armed forces evacuate residents from a building surrounded by flood waters in the village of Topcic Polje, near the central Bosnian town of Zenica. (Elvis Barukcic, AFP)

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Sarajevo - Flooding from the heaviest rainfall in over a century in the Balkans claimed three lives in Bosnia, officials said Friday, in what Serbia's premier called a "horrible natural catastrophe".

Two people died in separate landslides in the northeastern Bosnian towns of Bijeljina and Vlasenica, caused by floods from rain-swollen rivers across the region, police said.

A third victim died as emergency workers tried to reach his house in the northern Bosnian town of Maglaj, accessible only by boats and helicopters.

Both Bosnia and Serbia declared a state of emergency on Thursday over the floods caused by torrential rains, the heaviest in the past 120 years.

Bosnian army helicopters and police forces resumed the evacuation of residents in Maglaj and Doboj, the two towns hardest hit by the floods.

Electricity and water supply were cut off with thousands of people still trapped in their homes.

In the northern town Banja Luka, the river Vrbas overflowed overnight, flooding several suburbs where an evacuation was under way.

"We have been waiting for the rescuers for hours, too many people are in danger," Milanka Stojic, a 62-year-old pensioner, told AFP by phone.

Volunteers were trying to collect hundreds of stranded cattle that have fled flooded farms around Banja Luka, according to Mirko Ostojic, the owner of a dairy farm.

"Many animals are trapped in the mud and dozens of sheep have just been swept away by the floods," Ostojic said.

Prayed on roof

In Serbia, one person went missing on Friday in the western town of Obrenovac, one of the hardest hit in the floods, some 30km north from Belgrade.

Three people in Serbia drowned on Thursday, while more than 7 000 have been evacuated from dozens of towns mainly in the west of the country.

Thousands more are still awaiting evacuation as river levels reach a critical mark, notably on the Sava and Morava river, weather services said.

More than 150 000 households have been left without electricity. The Serbian government ordered emergency supplies from neighbouring countries, after two hydro-power plants endangered by the floods were closed down .

"Serbia has never seen such a horrible natural catastrophe," Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a meeting of the emergency staff.

A Russian emergency team has flown in to join the rescuers, while the European Commission was due to send high capacity pumping modules.

In Obrenovac, a town of some 20 000, people climbed on the roofs in a bid to escape the flood. More than 1 000 people have already been evacuated, Predrag Maric of the emergency services said.

Around 80% of the town has been flooded, the mayor said.

"Water has reached the first floor of our house, we prayed on the roof for the rescuers to come in time," said Visnja Marinovic who was taken to a Belgrade shelter with her three children.

More than 180 asylum seekers mostly from Afghanistan and Syria were also evacuated from a shelter near Obrenovac, its manager Rados Djurovic said.

"They are safe, but we need food and water, they are in the same situation as our citizens," he said.

Weather services said the rain could stop by mid-Saturday. Since Wednesday, as much rain has fallen as normally in three months, said meteorologist Nenad Drobnjakovic.

"The scope of this catastrophe is unbelievable... We will suffer consequences for at least two or three months," Vucic said.

In neighbouring Croatia, officials were on high alert amid fears that the river Sava will overflow and flood the area in the east of that country.

Read more on:    serbia  |  bosnia  |  flooding  |  weather

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