18 May 2014, 09:17

Serbia: floods turn into unprecedented disaster - gov't official

Serbia: floods turn into unprecedented disaster - gov't official

The floods that engulfed Serbia in recent days, have led to an unprecedented catastrophe, said the head of the country's Interior Ministry Emergency Situations Section, Predrag Maric to reporters on Saturday. "It amounted to a catastrophe, which has never happened in the entire history of Serbia," Maric said.

He stated that the rescuers will not going to publish the total number of victims, while some cities and towns still remain flooded.

Recent updates report five victims of the natural disaster and a few people missing. Serbia has evacuated 16,300 people from flood-stricken areas in Obrenovac, Baric, Sremska Mitrovica, and from the outskirts of Pozarevac, etc. People are being accommodated in schools, dormitories and institutes. Policemen, firefighters and a huge number of volunteers are involved in the rescue operations, the Serbian Interior Ministry reports.

About 78,000 houses in 13 municipal districts remain without electricity; 2,060 facilities have been flooded and another 1,763 are under threat of inundation. The relief aid collected by the Serbian Interior Ministry has been distributed flooded and flood threatened areas.

Most theatres and concert halls have cancelled performances and concerts until the end of the week at least in solidarity with the flood victims. Serbian museums have declined to participate in the "Night of Museums" event.

Instead, museums and theatres in Belgrade have started raising funds for flood victims. People are bringing bottles with drinking water, canned food, blankets, personal hygiene products, shoes and clothes.

The head of Serbian rescuers added that dozens of settlements in the country have been wiped off, and a number of affected areas can now be reached by helicopter only.

The lack of drinking water and food is pushing the situation towards humanitarian crisis.

Maric gave an example of Krupan, a town 120 kilometers west of Belgrade, which rescuers were able to reach only two days after the operation started.

Meanwhile, the neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is also hit by floods, officially confirmed the death of 16 people on May 17, Gojko Vasic, the head of police department in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told a news conference in Banja Luka on Saturday.

He expected more bodies to be found when the waters started to decrease.

So far, the death toll in Doboj in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, nine people, has been highest. It was isolated from the rest of the world for three days. It is still without electricity and some of its neighborhoods can only be reached by boat. More than 6,000 people have been now evacuated in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's mining clearing center has warned that floods and mudslides could displace minefields and bring mines and shells hidden on riverbeds to the surface.

"We are closely watching the situation and asking people not to panic if they see a shell appear from the ground," Sasa Obradovic, the center's spokesperson, said, advising people to immediately turn to mine disposal experts for help.

More than 500,000 people, out of Bosnia and Herzegovina's population of almost 4 million, live in areas filled with mines left behind after the 1992-1995 Bosnian war and run the daily risk of being blowing up by the unexploded mines.

According to the Bosnian demining center, about 220,000 mines still lie beneath the country's soil.

A state of emergency was declared throughout Serbia due to the heavy rains that caused intense flooding. The Serbian government requested Thursday humanitarian and technical assistance from Russia and the European Commission.

On Friday, the Russian Emergencies Ministry sent humanitarian aid to Serbia.

Read also: 

At least 16 dead in massive flooding in Bosnia, Serbia

Russia's EMERCOM responds first to assist Serbian flood victims

Serbia flooding: 6,100 evacuated, 100,000 homes reported without power

Russia offers help to Serbia where 3,000 people evacuated due to worst floods since 120 years

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