Home Page
news 18 May 14

Casualties Increase as Serbia Battles Flood Disaster

As the worst floods in over a century ravage parts of Serbia claiming lives and causing mass evacuations, the situation in the town of Obrenovac is no longer critical and authorities and volonteers are now working to prevent the river Sava burst its banks in Belgrade.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN, B92, Beta, RTS
Belgrade
Obrenovac, Photo by Beta/AP Marko Drobnjakovic

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday afternoon that 12 people lost their lives in the town of Obrenovac, south of Belgrade.

"I am afraid that the number will be even bigger," Vucic added.

People in Obrenovac can still be seen on roofs and helicopters are continuously flying over delivering food and water to those who are not in life danger but have been cut off due to flooding.

The police have blocked the entrance to the town to let rescuers do their job as many people were try to get in on their own and look for their missing family members or friends.

The rain has stopped and the water is going down making an easier job for the rescue teams. Tanks with water have also arrived to the town as there is still no water supply or electricity.

Thousands of rescuers in boats and police and army in helicopters are for the third day in a row trying to prevent further damage in Obrenovac  after the Kolubara river burst its banks and flooded 90 per cent of the town.

According to one rescuer in Obrenovac, bodies were floating in the water on Saturday and the rescuers had trouble evacuating all the people who are still trapped in the city.

“People are trying to get into the rescuing boats, and we are trying to do everything to save everyone, but we need more boats,” he said.

A woman evacuated early on Saturday morning told Balkan Insight that she spent two days at the sixth, top floor of the building in the centre of the town before she and her neighbours were saved.

Assistance for those in need can be paid into the dinar account of the Serbian government 840-3546721-89, purpose of payment: removal of consequences of the emergency situation – floods.

The number of the foreign currency account to which assistance can be deposited is: 01-504619-100193230-000000-0000.

“We were saved at the last moment, as after two days we were almost left without any food and water. We couldn’t communicate with anyone as there was no electricity and our phones haven’t been working. People trapped in Obrenovac have no idea what is going on around them.

“It was like a nightmare. The building next to ours collapsed. Many people are missing,” she says.

The Interior Ministry said more than 24,000 people had been evacuated already, and more requests for evacuation are coming.

Predrag Maric, head of police emergency sector, on Saturday said the situation in Obrenovac remained very critical and that rescuers had started uncovering dead bodies.

“I will not reveal the number until the water goes down,” Maric said.

Serbia receives help from abroad

So far, eight EU member-states - France, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Croatia - have reacted to the severe flooding in Serbia by providing help.

The EU info center in Belgrade has said that others are preparing to follow suit.

The US embassy in Belgrade expressed deep sympathy with thousands of Serbian citizens hit by floods and released that it has set aside 100,000 dollars worth of assistance.

Israel is another country that has decided to help by sending medicines, blankets, inflatable boats, and food.

The neighbouring Macedonia and Montenegro have also sent help.

Seventy six Russian emergency rescuers were the first to come on Thursday night.

The situation was also critical in the nearby towns of Krupanj, Ub and Sremska Mitrovica, which are cut off from the rest of the country. Maric said that these towns were now safe.

The authorities are getting ready for the flood wave which is expected to hit Belgrade on Tuesday or Wednesday. Many volonteers have been filling sacks with sand on the river Sava in the capital since Saturday night.

The town of Sabac, on the river Sava, had been saved, Ljubisa Dikovic, head of emergency team in Sabac, said on Saturday.

This came after several thousand volunteers came to the town on Friday to shore up flood defences.

One of the Belgrade volunteers who headed to Sabac told Balkan Insight that the situation in the city is under control, but that far too many people came to help and that the organisation of the defence was quite chaotic.

“Once we got there, there were thousands of people, and they needed maybe 1,500. People came not only from Belgrade, but also from Novi Sad and other cities.

“Then we were sent to Sremska Mitrovica to help the locals fight the floods. However, everything was quite chaotic and we could not approach the town. We were also told that there are not enough men in Sremska Mitrovica but that they don't have sand and shovels, and that we cannot help. So we returned to Sabac to help build the defence line. Sand bags were brought in trucks and we worked with police forces,” says the volunteer.

So far, over 16,500 people have been evacuated and 135,000 households have lost power.

The Serbian government on Thursday declared a state of emergency throughout the country.

Rail traffic between Belgrade and Nis in southern Serbia remains suspended, while one of the main north-south highways is also closed.

Photo by Beta/AP

Pupils in elementary and high schools in the capital, Belgrade, are being told to stay home owing to the flooding on the roads.

Following reports that some shops in the town of Valjevo had significantly upped the price of rubber boots and drinking water, the authorities warned that such behavior would be penalised.

Rasim Ljajic, Serbian trade minister, said on Sunday that 83 complaints had been filed against sellers for increasing the prices.

Following rumours that tap water might have become infected, Belgrade shops ran out of bottled water as panicked people cleaned up supplies on Friday night.

The authorities said it was the worst rain to hit Serbia in well over a century. Data show that last Wednesday alone 55 litres of rain fell on one square metre. This is the same amount of rain that usually falls in a month or even more.

A free phone line with number 112 has been set up for all those in need of help from flooding. The line is open 24/7.

Photo by Beta/AP Amel Emric

All those who wish to help the citizens affected by the flooding in Serbia can do so by donating food, water, clothes and blankets.

Outside the capital, citizens who wish to help flood victims are advised to go to local governments and the Red Cross.

The government has appealed to motor-boat owners to make them available to rescue teams in Obrenovac. The police have set up a call center to provide more information about how to help, and announced these phone numbers:

+ 381 11 312 0741, + 381 11 312 0741, + 381 11 312 0739, + 381 11 312 0739, + 381 11 312 9939, + 381 11 312 9939, + 381 11 312 0742, + 381 11 312 0742, + 381 11 312 0646, + 381 11 312 0646, and the email: pomoc.vanrednasituacija@mup.gov.rs

The help campaign for Serbia has been organized online as well. People are constantly posting on their Twitter and Facebook account information on missing and sharing addresses of places where people can bring needed stuff to the evacuated. An instruction on how to act after the floods and what to do once you enter the house which was flooded and prevent diseases has also been shared online.

Talk about it!

blog comments powered by Disqus

In Pictures

balkan-flood-disaster

Devastating Floods

Bosnia, Serbia and, to a lesser extent, Croatia have been hit by disastrous floods that have killed dozens, forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and caused huge damages in both countries

Blog

/en/file/show//Images/Images.New/bosnia 1 ed.jpg
19 May 14

A Tragic Journey Through the Bosnian Floodlands

Admir Muslimovic, Tuzla
/en/file/show//Images/Images.New/Bloggers/Dusica-Ikic-Cook-thumb.jpg
20 May 14

It’s a Pity We Have to Learn to Love Through Misery

Dusica L.I.Cook
/en/file/show//Images/Balkan Transitional Justice/Places/Doboj.destruction.JPG
23 May 14

Faith Restored in Humanity in the Mud of Doboj

Dzana Brkanic
/en/file/show//Images/Images.New/Bloggers/Florian-Bieber-thumb.jpg
28 May 14

What the Floods Reveal: Consequences of a Disaster

Florian Bieber