Serbia and Bosnia devastated by floods, landslides

May 21, 2014


The physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused by the war.  – Zlatko Lagumdzija, Bosnian Minister for Foreign Affairs

A major international aid operation is under way in Serbia and Bosnia in the wake of last week’s devastating cyclone. Extensive flooding and landslides in Serbia have left 40,000 people temporarily homeless.  In Bosnia, a country of just 3.8 million, over 500,000 were forced to flee their homes as mudslides destroyed entire villages. An estimated one million people — over a quarter of the country — do not have access to safe drinking water.  Hundreds of thousands have been left homeless.

According to officials, three months worth of rain fell over the course of three days, causing the Sava and other rivers to burst their banks.  The region reported receiving the largest amount of rainfall on record.

In mountainous Bosnia more than 2000 landslides wreaked havoc on infrastructure and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.  As the waters recede, in addition to removing millions of tons of mud and debris, emergency workers are tasked with disposing the carcasses of hundreds of thousands of animals.  Their task is complicated by the presence of 120,000 landmines left over from the war.

Ahdin Orahovac, director of Bosnia’s Mine Action Centre, told the BBC that their work had been put back years. “All of our mine warning signs have been moved. We have to warn our local population that they shouldn’t hurry back to their homes because there are many locations where landmines are now in new places.”

According to the Bosnian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Zlatko Lagumdzija, “the physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused by the war”. He said more than 100,000 houses and 240 schools and public health facilities were no longer usable and that the road infrastructure was badly damaged.  Mudslides have reportedly destroyed entire villages.


Serbia Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said further international aid was needed, particularly deliveries of food, clothing and bottled water.  Athough the rains have stopped, Belgrade is bracing to receive headwaters from the Danube and Sava rivers.  On the Sava emergency crews are working feverishly to prevent flood waters from shutting down the coal-fired power plant in Obrenovac, which reportedly produces about half of Serbia’s electricity.

Serbian emergency official Predrag Maric said the situation in Obrenovac was critical and on Monday the entire town was ordered to be evacuated.

A representative of the Serbia Red Cross told the Beacon that out of 186 municipalities 45 had been affected by flooding in the part of western Serbia delineated by the Drina, Moraua, Sava, and Danube rivers.  According to Ljubomir Miladinovic, director of international relations for the Serbia Red Cross, ten percent of the 1.6 million people living in the region have been affected by floods and mudslides, of which 40,000 were forced to flee their homes. 3,500 km worth of roads have reportedly been destroyed.  Serbia officials told the Beacon the affected regions were in dire need of shovels, rubber boots, rubber gloves, disinfectant, baby food, powdered milk, diapers, personal hygiene products, children’s clothing, mattresses, portable beds, disinfectants, and other supplies necessary to shelter and feed 40,000 people temporarily housed in schools and other government buildings.

Bosnia officials told us that there had been extensive flooding throughout Bosnia, and that over a million people had been affected. In addition to bottled water, food, clothing, and personal hygiene products, the country needs earth-moving equipment and mobile incinerators for safely disposing of the carcasses of hundreds of thousands of animals.

According to the Croatian Red Cross flooding forced some 18,000 people to abandon their homes in eastern Croatia.  For the time being the Croatian Red Cross has enough bottled water, food, and clothes, thanks in large part to a large outpouring of public support in the form of material donations.  However, upon returning to their homes the flood victims will need disinfectant, paint, scrub brushes, and paint brushes.  “After cleaning up, anything touched by flood water must be disinfected” says Marinko Metlicic, Head of Disaster Management for the Croatian Red Cross.  “As the flood waters recede, the journalists and film crews go away, and donations dry up”.

Referenced in this article:

Balkan floods: ‘Quarter of Bosnia’ without clean water,, 19 May 2014